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Otto Liman von Sanders
Generalleutnant Otto Liman von Sanders
Born (1855-02-17)February 17, 1855
Died August 22, 1929(1929-08-22) (aged 74)
Place of birth Stolp, Province of Pomerania, Kingdom of Prussia (today Poland)
Place of death Munich, Weimar Republic
Allegiance  German Empire
 Ottoman Empire
Service/branch Army
Rank General

World War I

Otto Liman von Sanders, Hans-Joachim Buddecke, and Oswald Boelcke in Turkey, 1916

Sanders 4627036226 52c952e0c4 o.jpg

Generalleutnant Otto Liman von Sanders (February 17, 1855 – August 22, 1929) was a German general who served as adviser and military commander for the Ottoman Empire during World War I.


He was born in Stolp (now Słupsk) in Pomerania province of the Kingdom of Prussia. His father was a Jewish nobleman.[1] Like many other Prussians from aristocratic families, he joined the military and rose through the ranks to Lieutenant General. Like several Prussian generals before him (e.g., von Moltke and Baron von der Goltz), he was appointed the head of a German military mission to the Ottoman Empire in 1913. For nearly eighty years, the Ottoman Empire had been trying to modernize its army along European lines. Liman von Sanders would be the last German to attempt this task.

On 30 June 1914, two days after the outbreak of the war in Europe, the Ottoman leaders agreed to form an alliance with Germany against Russia, although it did not require them to undertake military action, and on 31 October 1914, the Ottoman Empire officially entered the war on the side of the Central Powers. Britain and France declared war on 5 November, and the Ottomans declared a jihad (holy war) later that month.

The first proposal to attack the Ottoman Empire was made by the French Minister of Justice Aristide Briand in November 1914, which was rejected. Later that month Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, proposed a naval attack on the Dardanelles, based in part on erroneous reports of Ottoman troop strength. An initial attempt to force the Dardanelles by sea failed on 18 March 1915, due to gunfire from Ottoman forts on both sides of the strait. The Allies then turned to planning amphibious operations to capture the forts and clear the strait, which led to the Battle of Gallipoli.

Liman had little time to organize the defences, but he had two things in his favor. First, the Ottoman 5th Army in the Gallipoli peninsula was the best army they had, some 84,000 well-equipped soldiers in six divisions. Second, he was helped by poor Allied leadership. On 23 April 1915, the British landed a major force at Cape Helles. One of Liman's best decisions during this time was to promote Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk) to commander of the 19th division. Kemal's division literally saved the day for the Ottomans. His troops marched up on the day of the invasion and occupied the ridge line above the ANZAC landing site, just as the ANZAC troops were moving up the slope themselves. Kemal recognized the danger and personally made sure his troops held the ridge line. They were never forced off despite constant attacks for the next five months.

From April to November 1915 (when the decision to evacuate was made), Liman had to fight off numerous attacks against his defensive positions. The British tried another landing at Suvla Bay, but this also was halted by the Ottoman defenders. The only bright spot for the British in this entire operation was that they managed to evacuate their positions without much loss. However, this battle was a major victory for the Ottoman army and some of the credit is given to the generalship of Liman von Sanders.

Early in 1915, the previous head of the German military mission to the Ottoman Empire, Baron von der Goltz arrived in Istanbul as military advisor to the (essentially powerless) Sultan, Mehmed V. The old Baron did not get along with Liman von Sanders and did not like the three Pashas (Enver Pasha, Cemal Pasha and Talat) who ran the Ottoman Empire during the war. The Baron proposed some major offensives against the British, but these proposals came to nothing in the face of Allied offensives against the Ottomans on three fronts (the Dardanelles, the Caucusus Front, and the newly opened Mesopotamian Front). Liman was rid of the old Baron when Enver Pasha sent him to fight the British in Mesopotamia in October 1915. (Goltz died there six months later just before the British army at Kut surrendered).

In 1918, the last year of the war, Liman von Sanders took over command of the Ottoman army during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, replacing the German General Erich von Falkenhayn who had been defeated by British General Allenby at the end of 1917.

Liman was hampered by the significant decline in power of the Ottoman army. His forces were unable to do anything more than occupy defensive positions and wait for the British attack. The attack was a long time in coming, but when General Allenby finally unleashed his army, the entire Ottoman army was destroyed in a week of fighting (see the Battle of Megiddo). In the rout, Liman was nearly captured by British soldiers. After the war ended he was arrested in Malta in February 1919 on charges of having committed war crimes, but he was released six months later. He retired from the German army that year. In 1927 he published a book he had written in captivity in Malta about his experiences before and during the war (there is an English translation[2]). Two years later Otto Liman von Sanders died in Munich at the age of seventy-four.[3]

See also


  1. Bernt Engelmann,"Germany without Jews". Translated from German by D.J. Beer, New York: Bantam Books, 1984, p. 132
  2. Five years in Turkey Otto Viktor Karl Liman von Sanders. 326 pages. United States Naval Institute. 1927.
  3. "Von Sanders Dies. Famous Marshal. German Commander Defended Gallipoli For Turks Against The British. Vanquished In Palestine. Began Reorganization Of Sultan's Armies In 1913. Honored By Former Kaiser.". The New York Times. August 25, 1929. Retrieved 2010-07-04. "Field Marshal Otto K.B. Liman von Sanders, who directed operations against the British in Gallipoli during the World War, died on Thursday in Munich at the age of 74. ..." 

Further reading

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Erich von Falkenhayn
Commander of Yildirim Army Group
Succeeded by
Mustafa Kemal

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