Harbord Commission

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The Harbord Commission was a U.S. political commission tasked with studying the relationship between the United States and Armenia following World War I.

In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson sent two missions to the Near East to gather information on issues relating to the future of the region in the immediate aftermath of World War I. One group, later known as the "King-Crane Commission", was civilian, centered on Istanbul(Constantinople), and tasked to interview community leaders and representatives of the Ottoman government. In August 1919, a second group, the "American Military Mission to Armenia" was sent out to travel to the centre of Anatolia and then to Armenia.[1] It was headed by Major General James G. Harbord. Secretary of State Robert Lansing instructed Harbord to "investigate and report on the political, military, geographic, administrative, economic, and such other considerations involved in possible American interests and responsibilities in the region."[2]

The fifty-member mission arrived in Istanbul (Constantinople) at the beginning of September 1919, and then traveled for 30 days: by train to Adana, Aleppo, and Mardin, then by motor car to Diyarbakir, Harput, Malatya, Sivas, Erzincan, Erzurum, Kars, Etchmiadzin, Erivan and, finally, Tiflis. A side-expedition left the main party at Sivas in order to investigate conditions at Marsovan, Samsun, and along the Black Sea coast as far as Trebizond.[3] For information on the important vilayets of Bitlis and Van, General Harbord relied on information provided in the Niles and Sutherland Report.

The Harbord report also indicated that the Turkish population was far more numerous than the Armenians, following the massacres and deportations of the Armenian population in Eastern Anatolia.[4] Harbord's report stated that "the temptation to reprisals for past wrongs" would make it extremely difficult to maintain peace in the region.[5] The final conclusion of the report was the inclusion of Armenia in the possible American mandate for Asia Minor and Rumelia since a mandate for Armenia alone was not deemed feasible under these conditions.


  1. ^ Helen Sahagian, "Graffam, Partridge, and the Armenians of Sivas", p395, in "Armenian Sebastia/Sivas", R. G. Hovannisian (ed.), California, 2004.
  2. ^ Harbord, James G., Report of the American Military Mission to Armenia (Government Printing Office, 1920), 3
  3. ^ Richard G. Hovannisian, "Sebastia in the Aftermath of Genocide", p440-449, in "Armenian Sebastia/Sivas", R. G. Hovannisian (ed.), California, 2004.
  4. ^ Harbord, 7.
  5. ^ "Conditions in the Near East: Report of the American Military Mission to Armenia". p. 22. Considering...the isolation of certain regions where the temptation to reprisals for past wrongs will be strong for at least a generation, a certain force must be kept in hand to supplement the native constabulary when needed. 

External links[edit]

James G. Harbord, "Report of the American Military Mission to Armenia (Appendix only)" Washington, 1920. [1]