Special to the Armenian Weekly
Recently, while working in the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) archives, I happened upon an interesting letter. Though it was part of the Misak Torlakian collection, the document itself does not appear to have any relevance to the other material in that collection. The letter was one of four unrelated documents in a single envelop labeled simply “old papers.”
In 1907, Haroutiun Hovhannes Khachadoorian, a native of Aintab, arrived in the United States. He entered the University of Vermont (UVM) to study civil engineering and graduated with honors. While at UVM, he received the Bissell Prize for Progress and the Edward Haight Phelps Prize in Civil Engineering. In 1914, he received U.S. citizenship in Vermont.
After graduation, Khachadoorian briefly taught at UVM before working for the Halifax Eastern Railroad as Engineer in Charge between July 1915 and July 1916. He also worked for a time at Monks and Johnson, an engineering firm in Boston.
Khachadoorian joined the U.S. army and was a member of the American Expeditionary Force in France. The document in the ARF archives is in regard to his time with the American Military Mission to Armenia under General James Harbord. On Sept. 7, 1919, the Harbord mission had left Constantinople and over the next month traveled from Cilicia to Yerevan. Numerous archives and publications detail the Harbord mission, and even a brief video (below) exists through the U.S. National Archives.
As can be imagined, traveling those regions at that time exposed the group to numerous difficulties and dangers, and 1st Lt. Khachadoorian was in the thick of it. As I researched more about Khachadoorian, I happened upon an account in the Armenian Review by James Tashjian about the Harbord Mission, which included a biography of Khachadoorian with reference to the specific letter that is the subject of this article. In addition, a 1941 issue of the Hairenik amsakir (monthly) includes a detailed report by Khachadoorian of his time with the mission.
Harbord would write to Khachadoorian: “Your knowledge of the several languages spoken in Turkey and the Trans-Caucasus; your knowledge of the people and their customs were invaluable to us. Your untiring industry and invariable willingness to do well any duty given you were of very great service to the Mission, not to mention your technical knowledge as a civil engineer.”
Some 99 years have now passed since the letter of recommendation for Haroutiun Khachadoorian by General James Harbord. This Veterans’ Day, it seemed appropriate to highlight Khachadoorian’s life and contributions.
Clearly, he embodies the finest qualities of selflessness, achieving excellence in scholarship and patriotic dedication to both his nation of birth and nation of adoption.
After serving the Harbord mission, Khachadoorian would go on to serve as part of the Near East Relief before returning permanently to the U.S. He married and lived in the Springfield, Mass. area and had one son, Robert.
* For further information, refer to The Republic of Armenia, Volume II by Richard Hovannisian, The American Mission to Armenia by James Tashjian (a series of seven articles running from Spring 1949 through Autumn 1950 in The Armenian Review), and Amerigian Zinvoragan Arakeloutiunu Tebi Hayastan by Haroutiun Hovhannes Khachadoorian in Jan. 1941 issue of the Hairenik Amsakir.