Sara Corning Society

Sara's efforts in the Ottoman Empire, Armenia, and Greece 1919-1930:
For the next 11 years, Sara heroically helped to rescue and care for thousands of Armenian and Greek orphans from the former Ottoman Empire from 1919 to 1930. She risked her life to do so in besieged areas where vast numbers of children were orphaned due to brutal massacres of entire families.

2) Smyrna
In September 1922, the Greek army having been stopped by Ottoman military forces was retreating westward to the cosmopolitan port city of Smyrna, now Izmir, on the Aegean coast. The Ottoman military burned many villages, taking their revenge on Greek and Armenian villagers en route. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were fleeing to Smyrna ahead of the Ottoman troops in the desperate hope of being rescued by the many Allied warships in the harbour at Smyrna.
The American naval commander and High Commissioner in the region, Admiral Mark Bristol, based in Constantinople, now Istanbul, received an urgent message from the American Consul in Smyrna warning that a massacre in the city could happen if military assistance did not arrive, plus concerns regarding the staggering humanitarian needs of countless refugees. But Admiral Bristol's goal was to protect Americans and American economic interests in the city. So he sent top Red Cross and Near East Relief officials to Smyrna on the warship USS Lawrence to merely oversee the evacuation of any Americans living in Smyrna. He also sent a three-person medical team to assist the evacuees, if needed. Dr. Wilfred Post, a leading doctor with the Near East Relief ; Agnes Evon, the NER head of nursing; and NER nurse, Sara Corning, comprised this select medical team.

In his book, The Great Fire, author Lou Ureneck chronicles the subsequent rescue of thousands of refugees in a valiant effort by American hero and humanitarian Asa Jennings, including the heroism of Sara Corning and her two fellow relief workers and others. 

Picture: Aboard the USS Lawrence prior to departure for Smyrna: (1) Dr. Wilfred Post ; (2) Sara Corning, Red Cross nurse ; (3) Agnes Evon, head nurse of NER ; (4) Captain Arthur Hepburn; (5) Charles Claflin Davis, Red Cross Director; (6) Harold Jaquith, Regional Head of Near East Relief


Pictures:  USS Lawrence, Sara (at age 50) holding a rescued child on a warship and Refugees on quay in burning Smyrna

But the mostly Greek port city of Smyrna was put to the torch with thousands mercilessly raped, bayoneted, and killed amidst atrocities while Allied ships sat offshore under orders to remain neutral in maintaining political favor with the victorious Ottomans. Even so, in the midst of this city under siege, Sara Corning, Agnes Evon, and Dr. Post courageously tried to set up medical triage stations at various hospitals to help the countless refugees suffering from terrible wounds. They managed to do so for a while but they were eventually ordered by the Ottoman military to shut down or else suffer the consequences. Soon, the Armenian and then the Greek sections of the city were being set ablaze with kerosene and petrol. Battling horrific conditions, Sara and her teammates made their way through the massive death and destruction with fires further fuelled by strong, dry winds. Amazed to find them still alive, they rescued - at great risk to themselves - hundreds of defenseless children trapped at two schools in the Armenian district. They and the staff somehow led these children through the acrid smoke, over many bodies and ongoing bloodshed, to the waterfront and then to safety on American warships. During her seven days in Smyrna, from September 9th - 15th, Sara and her two team members helped save these vulnerable children who would otherwise have been killed or abducted.

Sara's team member at Smyrna, Agnes Evon, later wrote of their experience, "But if our faith in life survives, then there is a value in knowing the things that were done at Smyrna. They are scientific data showing what humanity is. If, somehow, through the ages, this world is to be made a decent place, then we must know clearly, now, that it is not a decent place. We must no longer deceive ourselves by thinking that one race, one nation, one group - is clean and innocent. None of us is innocent. The atrocity of Smyrna was the crime of the organized politics of the world, and the cruelty and cupidity of individual Turks was matched by the cruelty and cupidity of Western men." ____ McClure's Magazine, September 1923

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