HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY! As usual, Balladeer’s Blog marks the occasion with a look at a neglected aspect of American military history. Spare some thoughts today for the men who perished in this action.
AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES IN RUSSIA – The battles fought by these Americans carried over from the end of World War One into the early stages of the Russian Civil War. The Allied Nations of the First World War were fighting alongside the White (anti-Bolshevik) Russian Forces for a time.
Like any of my fellow World War One geeks I could drone on about it for hours, but I’ll try to keep this brief and on-point. The Red (Communist) Russians had taken Russia out of the war by signing a treaty with Germany. This had left German forces free to reinforce their armies on the Western Front, had jeopardized a large amount of Allied supplies which were already in the Russian port city of Archangel (Arkangelsk in Russian) on the White Sea AND jeopardized the safety of the Czech Legion along the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
With the World War still raging, the other Allied Nations prevailed on President Woodrow Wilson to divert some American forces intended for the Western Front to Archangel and beyond, joining a combined army of Brits, Poles and White Russians. The fighting in North Russia dragged on past the end of the global conflict in November of 1918 into June of 1919. The fighting in Eastern Russia dragged on until January of 1920. In other words, if the Americans sent to Russia had instead gone to their original destination of France, their combat operations would have ended on November 11th, rather than continuing for more than a year of further bloodshed and loss of limbs from frostbite. All the more reason to remember the often-neglected troops who served there.
On July 17th, 1918, American General John J “Black Jack” Pershing ordered 5,000 soldiers drawn from the 339th Infantry Regiment, the 1st Battalion of the 310th Engineers and assorted other units from the 85th Division to re-train for new battle conditions and head for Archangel. Those Americans became known as the Polar Bear Expedition. Meanwhile, 8,000 American soldiers were sent to Vladivostok, Russia as the American Expeditionary Force in Siberia. Continue reading