BRIEF HISTORY of the TURKISH ARMED FORCES
Turks, who have been referred to as the “Army-Nation” throughout the history, founded numerous states and subjugated and dominated numerous peoples, nations, and states over a wide ranging geography extending from Asia to Europe, and Africa. Vigorous living conditions of the steppes, demanding exceptionally energetic and strenuous living standards, compelled the Turks to become an rigorous and a militaristic nation; it was also a significant factor in their setting up of strong and well-organized armies.
The first orderly and disciplined formation of the Turkish Army dates back to 209 BC, during the Great Hun Empire; the greatest units in this organization were the divisions made up of 10.000 soldiers, divisions were further divided into smaller units composed of a thousand, hundred, and ten soldiers; this organization continued to exist throughout the history in the Turkish states with small changes.
Army has always been one of the most fundamental organizations of the Turkish states and has always kept its importance. Excellence in discipline, organization, education, and armament has always been the most common attributes of the Turkish armies. Turks after winning lots of wars, owing to the organization of their armies, firmly settled in Anatolia after the Battle of Malazgirt [Manzikert] in 1071; and soon by founding the Anatolian Seljuki State made Anatolia a motherland for themselves. In the following decade, Turkish beys’ reaching the Aegean coasts and the Marmora Sea compelled the Turkish nation to initiate admiralty, a new phase in the organization of its army. Çaka Bey was the first person who introduced the Turkish Nation with the open seas, the first Turkish fleet was launched in 1081, during his admiralty. The ships built in the Alanya and Sinop shipyards rendered Seljuki fleet to launch campaigns overseas.
Ottoman State, the strongest Turkish state founded in Anatolia, inheriting the Seljuki military formation introduced certain novelties in organizing its army as of its foundation. Within this framework, during the reign of Orhan Bey, a permanent and orderly army, relying mainly on infantry and cavalry, was founded. The necessity of having a naval power felt during the Siege of İznik (1327) was met by a 24-ship fleet sent by the Karesi Principality under the command of Karamürsel Bey. For the building of ships necessitated by the Ottoman Army a shipyard was built in Karamürsel the same year.
During the reign of Murat I, the developments in the army continued; in addition to the Provincial Forces, the main battle force of the Ottoman Army composed primarily of feudal cavalry units, Kapıkulu Hearths composed of infantry and cavalry units were formed. Thus, the Ottoman Army was divided into two major units: paid Kapıkulu Hearths, and feudal Provincial Forces. Ottoman State strengthening the organization of its army, challenged the Venetians at the Straits of İstanbul and Çanakkale to establish sovereignty over the Aegean and the Black Sea coastlines, which necessitated the building of larger battleships.
Both the developments in the land and in the naval forces triggered the improvements in manufacturing of war materiel. In order to meet the requirements in this field, towards the end of the foundation era, Cebeci Hearth was set up for the manufacturing of arrows, bows, swords, guns, broadaxes, gunpowder, bullets, armors, and helmets; Artillery Hearth for casting cannons; the Humbaracı Hearth was established for the casting of mortar projectiles,mines and bombs.
Upon engaging in an intensive shipbuilding activity, primarily in the Gelibolu Shipyard, during the reign of Mehmet II (the Conqueror) the Ottoman State formed its first strategic naval power. The fleet thus formed played a significant role in the conquest of İstanbul. Appointing of Hayreddin Barbarossa Pasha to admiralty as Kaptan Pasha by Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Navy reached its most powerful state, and following the naval victory at Preveza on 27 September 1538 the Mediterranean Sea became a Turkish Lake.
Crucial reforms were introduced to the Turkish military organization and education institutions as of the 18th Century. Under the reign of Selim III, Nizam-ı Cedid [New Order] Army forming the very seed of the modern Turkish Army was sown. Later the Sekbân-ı Cedid Hearth and the Eşkinci Hearth were set up; the most significant development in this field was the forming of the Asâkir-i Mansûre-i Muhammediye Army in the European style upon the abolishing of the Janissary organization.
The prominent novelties in the field of education were the founding of Mühendishâne-i Bahrî-i Hümâyûn [Imperial School of Naval Engineering] (1773) and Mühendishâne-i Berrî-i Hümâyûn [Imperial School of Engineering] (1794). Other notable novelties were the inauguration of the Mekteb-i Harbiye [Military Academy], Erkân-ı Harbiye Mektebi [War College], military secondary schools, primary schools and secondary schools for the education of NCOs, and military high schools.
Along with the novelties introduced in the land forces, reforms were initiated in the navy. Modernizations in the technologies introduced in the building of battleships especially after the Crimean War (1853-1856) were noteworthy. Invention of propeller and applying of the steam engines to the battleships, construction of battleships of iron, invention of breechloader guns, abandoning of the muzzleloader guns are but some of the advances in the navy. Another development in the navy was the replacing of the Kaptan Paşalık Müessesesi [Admiralty] with the Ministry of Navy on 17 March 1867.
Turkish Army, in addition to the developments in the army and navy, became interested in military aviation as of 1909; within this context, first air shows in the country were held and first reports pertaining to aviation were written. The “Aviation Commission,” founded under the command of the 2nd Section Chief Staff Lt.Col. Süreyya Bey on 1 June 1911, in affiliation to Ministry of War Kıtaat-ı Fenniye ve Mevâki-i Müstahkem Müffetişliği [Inspectorate of Technical Corps and Fortified Positions], constituted the foundations of the Turkish Military Aviation. Notwithstanding the limited means, Turkish air units performed active and successful duties in the Balkan Wars, World War I, and in the Turkish War of Independence.
Soon after the foundation of the Turkish Air Force, Turkish Army, making use of its deeply rooted military tradition, was compelled to fight on numerous fronts over a wide ranging geography with its army, navy, and air force in the World War I. World history witnessed how the valor and heroism of the Turkish soldier and nation that flowed throughout the centuries compounded with Mustafa Kemal’s military genius and competence rendered Çanakkale impassible.
Valiant Turkish Army that saved itsi motherland from disasters in times of crises and apalling conditions, together with noble and altuistic Turkish nation who mobilized all its means in the Turkish War of Independence recorded exceptional victories under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha’s directive “There is no line of defense but a plain of defense. That plain is the whole country.”;Turkish Army, by succeeding in from the Battle of Sakarya through the Great Offensive, enabled its nation to exist as an independent and a sovereign nation.
Understanding the importance of having a strong army in the protection of the motherland’s internal and external security thus, in the Republican Era, priority was given to the reforms to be made in the army. The first steps in the founding of a strong army were taken by reorganizing the Land Forces under three inspectorates, and their equipping with heavy and light machineguns, mortars, anti-tank weapons, and modern artillery guns.
The Erkân-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye Vekâleti [Ministry of War], founded in affiliation to the Council of Ministers in 1920, was renamed as the Erkân-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye Riyaseti [Presidency of War] upon a law issued on 3 March 1924 and its status as a ministry was changed to presidency and became an independent organization. The Erkân-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye Riyaseti moved to its new premises (the home of Turkish General Staff today) which Mustafa Kemal ATATÜRK inaugurated on 29 October 1931. As the ranks in the Turkish Army were replaced by their Turkish equivalents as of 1935 the name of the Erkân-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye Riyaseti was changed into the Turkish General Staff.
The Gendarmerie Organization that is believed to have been founded on 14 June 1839 with the aim of executing law and order in the country, received its present legal status upon the Law 1706 issued on 10 June 1930. The Turkish Gendarmerie Command has been affiliated to the Ministry of Interior under the Government Decree No.668 dated 27 July 2016.
Prior to the World War II, reorganizations were realized in the army, the inspectorates in the Land Forces were converted into army commands. Thus, the Land Forces were formed under three armies, and the battle strength of the Turkish Army was maximized. On founding Air Force Command on 23 January 1944, following the World War II, aviation units were brought under single command. Land Forces Under secretariat was converted into Land Forces Command on 1 July 1949; and the Under secretariat of the Navy was converted into Naval Forces Command on 15 August 1949.
Turkey, with the aim of contributing to world peace, responded affirmatively to UN Security Council Resolution on aid to South Korea, issued on 27 June 1950, and took active role in the Korean War with a brigade. Turkish forces were given tasks in the most crucial fronts as of the day they set foot in Korea until the signing of Ceasefire Agreement (27 July 1953). Turkish Forces fought altruistically in Korea under the guiding principle of “Peace at home, peace in the world,” as always. The Korean War improved the existing friendly Turkish-South Korean relations and paved the way to “blood brotherhood” where the relations continued to evolve further.
As the war waged on in Korea, Turkish Air Force Command began to be equipped with jet fighters as of 1951; the same year base and squadron formations were adapted, the 9th Main Jet Base Command in Balıkesir became the first Jet Base of the Turkish Air Force Command.
The greatest challenge the Turkish Army undertook after the Korean War was the Cyprus Peace Keeping Operation. In this first joint operation of the Turkish Army, Turkish Navy transferred and landed the Turkish units successfully under the support of the Turkish Air Force. In the aftermath of the Peace Keeping Operation, the core of the “Turkish Peace Force Command,” with an equal force to that of a corps command, was set up. Within the framework of the lessons learned from the operation, the Aegean Army Command was founded with the aim of defending the Aegean shores. Turkey’s geopolitical positioning, length of its coastline brought the necessity of founding a new and a professional Coast Guard Command. Moreover, taking into consideration the lack of a qualified force for implementing the laws and regulations to be executed, and undertaking of ministries’ services pertaining to the territorial waters, the Coast Guard Command was formed on 9 July 1982. The Coast Guard Command, has been affiliated to the Ministry of Interior under the Government Decree No.668 dated 27 July 2016.
Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) initiated a reorganization process towards the end of 1980s. Aside from contributing the Turkish national interests in peace time, TAF has been undertaking tasks against risk factors ranging from terror without borders to cyber-attacks and intercontinental ballistic missile threats in the defense of the country. Furthermore, as a prerequisite of strategic security concept beyond boundaries, TAF signs military training and cooperation agreements with other nations, provides military support, and cooperates with its neighbors and regional states in establishing confidence and security building measures as well as taking active part in international arms control regimes.
TAF, with the aim of contributing to the world peace by providing regional and international security, has undertaken and still continues to take active roles in peace support operations in Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Lebanon; and also conducts tasks in Somalia, Qatar and Albania within the bilateral relations.
Today, the Turkish Army has gained the capacity of launching operations under all kinds of weather conditions with its cross-border operational capabilities in launching defense against terrorism, level of technology it has gained, superiority of knowledge and education, and with its reliance mainly on national war industry. Moreover, TAF continues to strengthen its due place among the strongest armies of the world owing to its capacity of undertaking tasks with its extraordinary understanding of discipline and force under NATO flag in the most delicate corners of the world.
The Founder of our Republic and our eternal Commander-in-Chief Gazi Mustafa Kemal ATATÜRK, in his historical message, addressed the Turkish Army as follows:
Within the framework of the approach above and being historically aware of its responsibilities; as in the past, TAF is determined and resolute to undertake all the tasks that will be given to it in the future, relying on the power from the love and trust of the noble Turkish Nation bestowed upon them.