The Armenian Revolutionary Federation in the city assumed the responsibility for the defense at the very beginning. In view of the fact that Van Vasbouragan had become one of the theatres of the war, teaming with armed Kurds, Hamidie groups and other disorderly militiamen and brigands, this organization busied itself from October, 1914, by drawing up the defense plans and the preliminary tasks connected with same. The early declaration of “Holy War” added much fuel to the fire.
The seven members of the Defense Council included: David Sarkissian, store keeper, Levon Kaljian, merchant, Haig Gossoyan, teacher, Mihran Toromanian, soap maker, Mihrtad Mirzakhanian, land owner farmer, Sarkis Shahenian, merchant and Harootiun Nergaraian, coppersmith.
In consultation with higher authorities, this council was able to complete essential tasks, such as, (a) registration of arms, preparation of arms caches and procurement of firearms, (b) registration of men fit for and capable of combat duty, appointment of defense leaders, reconditioning of arms, (c) creation of first aid and hospital facilities, and procurement of drugs, (d) and a provisioning committee, to be activated as soon as demand required.
The entire arsenal of the defensive forces consisted of 90 Mauser pistols with 13,500 rounds of ammunition, 101 rifles with 20,200 cartridges, 120 small hand revolvers with 10,800 bullets. This figure was increased by 7,000 bullets later on. The munitions shop refilled 12,000 cartridges during the struggle. Also available were six large, six medium and four small bombs. About 300 pounds of powder was salvaged from Turkish shells during the conflict.
According to our defense plans, it was imperative to destroy, at the outset of hostilities, the following buildings which could otherwise render our defense positions untenable: the building of post and telegraph, the “Regie” building, the Bank, Municipal and Sanitary establishments, City Police station, the Armory and warehouse for military procurement and the Court House. In the case of the last two buildings, it was planned to try and capture them first, failing that, they were to be burned.
The defense area was subdivided into four sections:
Section 1. - Leader, David Sarkissian; assisted by Levon Kaljian.
Section 2. - Leader, Harootiun Nergararian; assistant Sarkis Shahenian.
Section 3. - Leader, Mihran Toromanian; assistant Markar Sarkissian.
Section 4. - Leader, Mihrtad Mirzakhanian; assistant Mihran Negararian.
The Defense Command was located at the Prelacy building. All orders were to be issued and arrangements made by this body. Defense leaders had to apply to it for any of their needs. The Defense Command was headed by Haig Gossoyan, teacher.