Yildirim Army

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Special Ottoman strike force, also known as the Thunderbolt, or Seventh Army.

The army was organized in early 1917 by Enver Paşa to defend the Eastern Front in World War I. It comprised fourteen Ottoman divisions headed by German General Erich von Falkenhayn and included six thousand German soldiers and sixty-five top Ottoman officers, including General Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk). Enver Paşa had originally planned this special army to recapture Iraq but, in March 1917, sent it to block the new British and Arab campaign in Palestine, where they joined the Fourth Army at Gaza and won an initial victory.

The Ottoman-German effort, however, was weakened by conflicts over jurisdiction, by Turkish nationalist dissent toward the German leadership, and by matériel disadvantages. In the autumn of 1917, the British and Arab offensive forced an Ottoman withdrawal to Damascus, with heavy losses on 27 December. The Allied drive resumed the next autumn, and, on 1 October 1918, British General Edmund Allenby and the Arab nationalist revolt forced the Ottomans to evacuate the Syrian capital. Allenby's troops, aided by French forces landing at Beirut, nearly annihilated the Yildirim Army as the Ottomans were driven back to Alexandretta within two weeks. General Otto Liman von Sanders gave command of the Yildirim to Mustafa Kemal after the Mudros Armistice took effect 31 October, and Kemal surrendered at Adana on 13 November 1918.


Shaw, Stanford J., and Shaw, Ezel Kural. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. 2 vols. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 19761977.

elizabeth thompson