News American Intervention in Northern Russia, 1918-1919

Discussion in 'The Howard Stern Show' started by MrPACS, Jul 21, 2015.

  1. MrPACS

    MrPACS Well-Known Member

    Jan 16, 2012
    Likes Received:
    I never knew about this. Interesting stuff.

    The American military intervention at Archangel, Russia, at the end of World War I, nicknamed the "Polar Bear Expedition," is a strange episode in American history. Ostensibly sent to Russia to prevent a German advance and to help reopen the Eastern Front, American soldiers found themselves fighting Bolshevik revolutionaries for months after the Armistice ended fighting in France.

    Because many of the American troops involved in the intervention were from Michigan, the Michigan Historical Collections has long been interested in documenting this episode. This guide describes the Collections' holdings of manuscripts and photographs as well as maps and primary printed source materials relating to the Polar Bear Expedition.

    During the summer of 1918, the U. S. Army's 85th Division, made up primarily of men from Michigan and Wisconsin, completed its training at Fort Custer, outside of Battle Creek, Michigan, and proceeded to England. While the rest of the division was preparing to enter the fighting in France, some 5,000 troops of the 339th Infantry and support units (one battalion of the 310th Engineers, the 337th Field Hospital, and the 337th Ambulance Company) were issued Russian weapons and equipment and sailed for Archangel, a Russian port on the White Sea, 600 miles north of Moscow.

    When American troops reached their destination in early September, they joined an international force commanded by the British that had been sent to northern Russia for purposes never made clear. Whatever the reasons for the intervention, however, the force was fighting the Bolsheviks who had taken power in Petrograd and Moscow the previous winter.

    The strategy of the expedition's commanders was to advance south and east to join Russian and foreign anti-Bolshevik armies hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Fighting during the winter of 1918-1919 was concentrated in six areas scattered across Archangel Province in a semicircle south of the city. From east to west the areas of activity were:

    • Pinega, 80 miles east of Archangel, where garrisons met little fighting.
    • The Dvina River, flowing to Archangel from the southeast. where the goal was the railhead of Kotlas, 300 miles southeast of Archangel. The American front lines were at Toulgas, 200 miles from Archangel, scene of an Armistice Day battle that marked the beginning of a decline in American morale.
    • The Vaga River, a tributary of the upper Dvina, where the front was south of Shenkursk, 40 miles south of Toulgas. This was the Americans' most advanced position. The Bolshevik victory at Ust Padenga and the subsequent American retreat from Shenkursk in late January 1919 was an important defeat for Allied forces.
    • The Emtsa River area, with Seletskoe at its center, 100 miles south of Archangel, which provided a route between the area's two main lines of communication, the lower Dvina River and the railroad. Fighting at Kodish around New Year's Day 1919 resulted in a Bolshevik defeat that had little lasting benefit for the Allies.
    • The Archangel-Vologda Railroad, running south almost 400 miles to the junction at Vologda. The railroad was the scene of the first skirmishing between Americans and Bolsheviks and numerous other actions, but the objective of Plesetskaya, 130 miles south of Archangel, was never taken.
    • Onega, 90 miles west of Archangel, at the mouth of the Onega River, where little fighting took place before the battle at Bolshie Ozerki, between Onega and the railroad, in March and April 1919, which proved to be the last major fighting involving American troops.
    Two companies of the U. S. Army Transportation Corps arrived in Murmansk, 400 miles northwest of Archangel, in April 1919. Their duty was to maintain and operate the Murmansk railroad, running parallel to the Archangel-Vologda railroad but 200 miles farther west.

    A winter of fighting Bolsheviks and wondering why they were still in combat when the war with Germany had ended led to severe morale problems among the American troops, including an alleged mutiny in March 1919 by members of one company in Archangel, and the presentation of an antiwar petition by members of another company in the same month. The troops were ready for the new American commander who arrived at Archangel in April 1919 with orders to withdraw. As soon as navigation opened in June, the American forces left northern Russia. British troops withdrew a few months later, but the anti-Bolshevik government they left behind held the city until February 1920.

    In 1922, veterans of the campaign held their first reunion in Detroit and formed the Polar Bear Association to preserve their comradeship and perpetuate the memory of their expedition. The organization was active at least until 1983, when 22 surviving members of the association held a luncheon meeting in Detroit.

    Public attention was drawn to the expedition in 1929, when two commissions, one appointed by the governor of Michigan and the other organized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars for the War Department, went to Archangel to recover the bodies of American soldiers buried in Russia. The remains they found were returned to the United States and reburied with honors in the Polar Bear Memorial at White Chapel Cemetery, Troy, Michigan.

    For over twenty years the Michigan Historical Collections has actively collected the personal papers of officers and enlisted men involved in the Polar Bear Expedition. In 1965, the library published Michigan's Polar Bears, in which Richard Doolen portrayed the experiences of the men who served in Archangel using excerpts from the collections held by the library at that time. Since then, the number of manuscript collections held has doubled, and additional photographs, maps, and printed materials have been added.

    Researchers can obtain an overview of the campaign in Ernest Halliday's The Ignorant Armies (New York, 1958) which, along with other secondary accounts, is not listed in this guide. Published primary sources listed in this guide that provide a general view of the campaign include The History of the American Expedition Fighting the Bolsheviki, compiled by Joel R. Moore, Harry H. Mead, and Lewis E. Jahns from the reminiscences and diaries of many participants, or from the bitter accounts of Harry J. Costello, Why Did We Go To Russia?, and John Cudahy, Archangel: The American War With Russia. The map collection of Frederick C. O'Dell covers all the areas of military activity (except the Murmansk railroad) and the photograph collections of Jay H. Bonnell, Joel R. Moore, Frederick C. O'Dell, and the U. S. Army Signal Corps provide general information about the terrain and people involved. The microfilm edition of the records of the American Expeditionary Force, North Russia, is the most comprehensive manuscript collection on the expedition held by the Michigan Historical Collections.
  2. x76

    x76 Just a crazy old hermit VIP

    Oct 12, 2010
    Likes Received:
    A curious fold in history, indeed.
    MrPACS likes this.
  3. sstressed

    sstressed Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2011
    Likes Received:
    i think i know the reason they went to die in the wilderness. some clueless, asshole politicians got bored and decided to send our guys out to die.

    when things went tits up, the politicians all started pretending that they didn't have anything to do with it.

    something like that. it's always something like that.