An Unsung American Hero to be Honored for Saving 250,000 People During the Armenian Genocide
Updated: Jul 9
By Siranush Ghazanchyan
(ArmRadio) – Asa Kent Jennings was an American hero who saved 250,000 people during the Armenian Genocide.
Despite his awe-inspiring life-saving deeds, his story has not been properly recognized, not only around the world, but also in the USA and in Armenia. The Board of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has resolved to pay tribute to his legacy in a series of activities that will be made public soon.
Jennings was a small-town handicapped Minister originally from upstate New York. At the beginning of the 20th century he worked in the affluent city of Smyrna in Turkey, as a YMCA employee. In September 1922, the Turkish nationalist army entered the city with the intent of slaughtering all its Christian residents, mostly Armenians and Greek. A huge blaze erupted through the city on September 13, trapping scores of refugees in a narrow strip by the sea. Hundreds of thousands were doomed to die on the city's waterfront. Many of them were succumbing to plagues, hunger and thirst, under the Turkish siege.
Aware of their plight, Jennings had set-up a first-aid station for pregnant women in an empty home on the waterfront. He then organized a fleet of ships with the help of the US Navy in an audacious and imaginative rescue plan.
The Jennings evacuation removed 250,000 refugees from Smyrna and relocated them to the Greek Islands and the cities of Thessaloniki and Piraeus.
This blitz operation took only 7 days, to meet a Turkish city amidst threats of deportation. His courage and shrewdness saved the lives of a quarter million innocent human beings from a terrible death.
Asa Kent Jennings is a great American rescuer who went out of his way to save scores of Armenians and Greeks and his legacy must be divulged for the world to know that people like him were not indifferent to the plight of other human beings. His spirit of solidarity should be a beacon of hope and should teach us that one man can make a difference.
The IRWF decision to commemorate the feats of Asa Jennings are in the framework of the NGO's research efforts aimed at discovering the brave women and men who reached out to the Armenians in their suffering.