On February 15 in Los Angeles, the Greek Heritage Society of Southern California with the support of the consulates of Japan, Greece, and Armenia held an evening dedicated to the sailors of a Japanese ship which had saved hundreds of Armenian refugees from Smyrna.
At the event spoke the consuls of three countries – Japan, Greece, and Armenia. The keynote speaker was Dr. Nanako Murat Sawayanagi from Toyo University who has been researching this topic for many years.
More than a hundred years have passed since Japanese sailors saved hundreds of Armenians and Greeks who fled from Asia Minor. Some of these sailors verbally passed on their stories to their children, especially those about the rescue of the inhabitants of Smyrna in 1922. But since only a few written sources have been preserved, the details of these events are not well known.
Among the guests of the event were representatives of Armenian, Greek, and Japanese communities and organizations.
Between 1919 to 1922, during the Second Greek-Turkish War, Smyrna (modern Izmir) was under the control of Greek forces. On September 9, 1922, the Turkish army invaded the city. After that, the massacre of the Armenian and Greek population began, and a large fire almost destroyed the Christian part of the city.
According to various estimates, between 10,000 and 100,000 people were killed. Under the pressure from the Western powers, the Turks had to allow the surviving Greeks and Armenians, except for men of working age, to leave the city on foreign ships.
American pastor Asa Jennings organized the evacuation with the Greek flotilla. It is also known that the sailors of the Japanese ships dumped practically their entire cargo in order to take on board as many people as possible. Thus, about 400,000 people were saved.