Crabs Feasted on Dead After Gallipoli’s Slaughter: Lewis Lapham

During World War I, Allies wanting to open a supply route to Russia made a plan to attack the Dardanelles.

After a failed naval attempt, ground troops were sent to take on the Ottoman forces. The invasion began in April 1915, lasted 8 months and turned into an unmitigated disaster.

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Allied forces were pinned down by Turkish snipers occupying the high ground. Corpses were everywhere: in the trenches, dug into parapets and, worst of all, decomposing in the hot sun. Bloated cadavers bred millions of flies, dysentery and paratyphoid fever, and an inescapable, nauseating stench.

On the beaches, crabs feasted on the dead -- touching a stray boot would cause its contents to come scuttling out. The men of the French Foreign Legion made the best of a bad situation by harvesting the crustaceans to make a tasty bouillabaisse.

In the end, the Allies evacuated.

I spoke with Peter Hart, author of “Gallipoli,” on the following topics:

1. Tragic Folly

2. Wholesale Slaughter

3. Rife With Disease

4. Incompetent Command

5. Long-Term Consequences

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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Source: Oxford University Press via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of "Gallipoli" by Peter Hart. Close

The cover jacket of "Gallipoli" by Peter Hart.

Source: Oxford University Press via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of "Gallipoli" by Peter Hart.

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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