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A Forgotten Hero: From the United States to Cilicia

Captain Jim Chankalian was named a Captain in the United States Army for his service during the Spanish-American War in 1898 and later served the A.D.L., A.G.B.U. and Armenian Church with great distinction and honour until his death on May 10, 1947.

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Born in Dikranagerd as Bedros Chankalian, James (Jim) emigrated to the United States with his family. He graduated from an American high school, then entered a military academy to become an officer in the U.S.

Already a seasoned soldier in the U.S. Army, Chankalian also became a well-known figure in the Armenian community of New York. After resigning from his rank of captain, he was offered an important position with Powers Co. He ably performed the job he had taken, which ensured him a comfortable living. In 1915, the Reformed Hunchak Party, in cooperation with the Regional Committee of the Constitutional Democratic [Ramgavar] Party of the United States, decided to send Jim Chankalian on a special mission, first to the Caucasus and then to Van. Chankalian gladly accepted the proposition, giving up his high position and comfortable station in life. Taking with him a group of experienced volunteers, who had come from Western Armenia, he reached Van at the designated time and was greeted there by the brave leader of the successful heroic self-defense, Armenag Yegarian.

After consulting with Yegarian, Chankalian put his extensive military experience in the service of the heroic struggle of the Armenians of Van and became Yegarian’s advisor and immediate co-worker in the formation of the Yerkrapah [Defenders of the (Father) Land] Regiment. With the satisfaction of having fulfilled his obligation, Chankalian set out for the Caucasus, where he had intended to join General Antranig’s forces. In 1917, Chankalian returned to the United States, having fully performed the mission entrusted to him. But he had barely become situated, when he found out about the plan of the formation of the Armenian Legion. Owing to special arrangements made by the French government and army, it was projected that this legion should depart for the Palestinian front, to fight alongside the Allies (France, England and Russia) against the German and Turkish troops that were allied on the other side.

Chankalian, who enjoyed the unreserved respect and esteem of the American-Armenian community and Armenian political parties, was appointed leader of the detachment consisting of American-Armenian volunteers, which was to join the Armenian Legion. The main dream of the Armenian soldiers was the formation of an autonomous Armenia under French mandate, at the cost of the blood to be sacrificed by them. The Armenian National Union formed in Egypt and the Armenian National Delegation had secured such a promise from the French authorities. The natives of Musa Dagh, who had found refuge in the seaside town of Port Said, Egypt, formed the nucleus of the Armenian, or Foreign Legion. On July 9, 1917, Chankalian, along with the volunteers under his charge, boarded a French ship headed for Marseilles. From there, he went to Port Said and joined the nucleus of the legion; all together, they departed for Cyprus, where volunteers from all parts of the world wishing to join the Foreign Legion were assembled for training.

The trained detachments were divided into three companies, or battalions. By order of General Allenby, the commander of the combined troops of the Allied powers operating on the Middle Eastern front, the Armenian volunteers were transported to Palestine on September 14, 1918, where five days later they went on the attack against the German and Turkish forces in Arara. The first line of the front, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, headed by Chankalian, was occupied by the detachments comprising the American-Armenian volunteers; with a minimum loss of life, they achieved the glorious victory at Arara.

World War I ended in November 1918. The Armenian volunteers were transferred from the Palestinian front to Beirut. From there, British ships took them, in groups, via Alexandretta [Iskenderun] to the mountains and plains of Cilicia. The legionnaires were greeted in Adana with Armenian tricolor flags. The Turks already appeared to be disillusioned. In the overall prevailing atmosphere, it seemed an easy task to the fighters of the Armenian Legion to take all of Cilicia under their control. The execution of the plan to have an autonomous or independent Armenian Cilicia was undertaken with [Mihran] Damadian’s leadership. In order to crown such a plan as this with success, it was necessary to have a solid fighting force which could become a reality, with the assemblage of such battle-tested heroes as Chankalian, Antranig, Yegarian, [Yesayi] Yaghoubian, etc. However, the Allied powers had a different intention. They resorted to various measures, in order to prevent the entrance of Antranig, Yegarian, and the others into Cilicia.

Convinced that the plan of having an Armenian state in Cilicia would remain unattainable, a disappointed Chankalian returned to the United States, but not before having recorded brilliant pages in the history of the Armenian liberation struggle and World War I. Subsequently, as one of the leading figures of the Democratic Liberal Party in America, Chankalian traveled to all the cities with large Armenian concentrations, especially those in California, in order to organize efforts to raise funds in support of the first Republic of Armenia.

In order to give a greater impetus to his efforts on behalf of the homeland, Chankalian became the driving force behind the formation of the American-Armenian National Council and served as its president. He also became the first president of the Central Committee of the AGBU of America, and he devoted his time and service to the Armenian Church as well. This great patriot, endowed with exceptional military prowess, passed away in New York in 1948 at an advanced age, leaving behind him a great and unforgettable legacy of sacrifice made for his nation.

source: http://lalettre.hayway.org/protected/en/communique000101cb.html

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Armenian Genocide Commemorations Around the World 2013

Armenia

Artsakh

Քնար Բաբայան, eMedia.am

Georgia

In Tbilisi the Armenians of Georgia on 23 April organized a torchlight procession in honor of victims of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire.The march began at the park “Vake” and ended in front of the Turkish Embassy in Georgia,where more than 100 protesters spoke against the policy of denying the Armenian Genocide in 1915.The organizer of the event is to Student Association “Communities of Armenians of Georgia”.During the rally participants chanted “Recognition”, “Justice”, “Turkey-crime” ,sang patriotic songs.
Akhaltskha
Akhalkalak
Photos by Armen Grigoryan

Lebanon

Canada

Syria

Greece

Photo by: Heggie A.
Police clash with protesters at the annual rally to protest the mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey nearly a century ago in Thessaloniki, Greece.

France

Paris

Marseilles

Toulouse
Valence

Turkey

A scene from the Armenian genocide commemoration in Istanbul today (Photo by Razmik Panossian)- From Armenian Weekly
Genocide Commemorated in Diyarbakir for First Time
http://www.armenianweekly.com/2013/04/23/genocide-commemorated-in-diyarbakir-for-first-time/

America

DC Community Demands US Reaffirmation at White House Protest
http://www.armenianweekly.com/2013/04/23/dc-community-demands-us-reaffirmation-at-white-house-protest/

Los Angeles- Asbarez

Chicago- pics courtesy of Filor Nigoghossian

Belarus

Armenian community based organizations of Belarus Republic and Armenian Embassy held an event dedicated to the memory of Armenian Genocide victims, which took place near the cross-stone installed in Minsk Central Military Cemetery.
As Armenpress was informed from press service of Armenian Foreign Ministry, representatives of Polish, Jewish, Russian, Yezidi communities participated in the event. After laying wreaths for the memory of the victims Armenian Ambassador Armen Khachatryan and head of “Armenia” community based organization delivered speeches.

Belgium

On April 24, the Armenian Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Brussels held a liturgy in commemoration with the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey. The liturgy was followed by a procession to the memorial stones dedicated to the memory of the innocent victims of the Genocide, set on one of the squares of Brussels.
Spiritual leaders held a memorial ceremony, which was followed by speeches by the President of the Armenian community in Belgium Michel Mamuryan and head of the Armenian delegation to NATO, Ambassador Armen Yedigaryan.
Genocide victims were honored by the Vice-President of the Belgian Senate Armand De Decker, representatives of the government, recognized Belgian politicians and public figures, representatives of Jewish community, intellectuals and journalists.
Earlier, on April 23 Armenian Students’ Union “Nairyan” organized rally with candles.

Romania

Bulgaria

London

Argentina

The Argentine Football Championship 10th round of “Boca Juniors” – “Belgrano” meeting (0-0)started with lining of the Armenian Genocide.
In “Boca Juniors”,that was presented Argentine’s capital,”Estadio Armando Khakinto” stadium poster exhibition was initiated by the local Armenian community.

Uruguay

Hungary

Armenian Genocide Memorial erected in Hungary

Spain

Jerusalem

Iran

Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

Armenian Genocide commemorated in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
Panorama.am

Cyprus

Photo by: Natalie McLeod