THE SIBERIAN SOJOURN- BOOK TWO
Written By: EDITH M. FAULSTICH
This work of my grandmother’s is protected by copyright laws, any use for profit thereof or reprint of any kind or use on any medium, social network, brochure, book, reserach article must be fully cited. Please, give her the due respect she deserves from the 25 years of selfless research she performed. Faulstich, Edith M. The Siberian Sojourn. [Yonkers, N.Y.]: Faulstich, 19741977. I have taken the time to electronically reprint her unpublished book, except for a very small printing which was provided to the families of the A.E.F soldiers and the select with whom she corresponded.
Please respect the life work and research of my grandmother, who has since passed on.
Book Two of the “Siberian Sojourn” is a continuation of Book One which was presented in 1974. Both books follow the outline as planned by Edith M. Faulstich prior to her death in 1972.
Book One, in spite of shortcomings, was well received by you veterans and you families. You knew well of the love and devotion with which the work was conceived by Edith. It is my hope that Book Two will be equally well received. I am sure that any shortcomings will again be generously overlooked.
While the story of any historical event can never be fully told, it is felt that something of value has been added to the record of the “Siberian” campaign. It was the intent of Edith that men and women who served would have some small recognition which is so rarely granted in the formal history books.
It is hoped that Edith will be pleased with this presentation. It is hoped that you veterans and your families will approve.
May 22, 1977
Footnotes to Book Two
Chapter XV Colonel Styer Arrives and Troops Land 1 – 24
Chapter XVI Events to the End of August 1918 25 – 54
Chapter XVII F & G Companies, 27th Infantry Regiment En Route to Sviyagino 55-74
Chapter XVIII The Britis 75 – 90
Chapter XIX The Battle of Kraevski 91 – 98
Chapter XX The 90-Mile March 99 – 120
Chapter XXI General Graves & More Troops Arrive in Vladivostok 121 – 158
Chapter XXII The Americans Settle in at Vladivostok 159 – 208
Chapter XXIII Personnel of the 27th and 31st Regiments Go Full Strength 209 – 221
Footnotes 222 – 226
Colonel Styer Arrives and Troops Land
Upon the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force, Colonel Henry Styer, who had command of the AEF in Siberia up to the arrival of Major General Graves, paid an official call on Japanese Lieutenant General Oi the Senior Military Officer then present in Valdivostok.
After introductory amenities were over, Styer asked Oi for suggestions as to the best procedure for American cooperation. To the Colonel’s dismay the Japanese general lost no time in stating that General Kikuz Otani of the Imperial Japanese Army had been designated to assume the Supreme Command of all the Allied Siberian Forces “at the request of the American Government.”
Styer was stunned by the impact of this news. American soldiers under the command of a Japanese? This was unheard of. With military dignity he merely indicated that he had not been so advised.
“I suggest,” said Styer, “that concrete plans await the arrival of the Supreme Commander of the American Forces, Major General William S. Graves. He will be here shortly.”
The Japanese retorted that plans could not wait.
It can well be imagined that Styer must have had a few sleepless nights pondering this. He wired Washington at once and asked for specific information regarding command.
When word was received it merely confirmed that Graves would be arriving in Vladivostok shortly. That had not answered his query. Washington’s apparent unwillingness to refute the Japanese announcement left nothing for the Colonel to do but proceed according to General Oi’s instructions until Major General Graves arrived.
Styer designated the names and duties of his staff officers. His official cable to Washington reported that he had with him 1,537 men of the 27th Infantry.
Among the officers were included some OF the staff authorized by the war Department: Colonel James S. Wilson, Chief Surgeon, Major David P. Barrows, Intelligence Officer (with four assistants) and Lieutenant Colonel W.V. Morris who became the Inspector General of the Expedition.
Colonel Styer conferred with Lt. General Yuhi, Chief of Staff representing General Otani and was given a detailed briefing on the general plan of operations. A map of the area was consulted. Styer was told that there were some 15,000 armed enemy in Khabarovsk. Yuhi stated that it would therefore be necessary to strike there first and take that city. They would then proceed west by Amur and Manchuria. There would be 40,000 troops and a long double line of communications to make secure between the Allies and the Czecho-Slovaks if the latter were to be extricated from west of Irkutsk.
Styer had not been briefed on conditions, but he did know that the Czeho-Slovaks were to be helped to get back to Vladivostok. That was part of the mission. But he had no way of knowing that the Japanese exaggerated conditions. He simply assumed that their reports were correct.
Therefore, in special Orders #1 of August 16, 1918 he stated that the Second Battalion was ordered to relieve the Railroad Guards.
Thus it was that American soldiers served under Japanese command from mid-August, 1918 until the arrival of General Graves on September 2, 1918.
Upon his arrival Graves immediately called on General Utani (by that time himself in Vladivostok) and set the record straight with regard to the command of American troops. Graves stated that he and he alone would be in charge of the latter.
Before the arrival of the Commander in Chief, Styer had wired Washington on August 19th to report his meeting with Yuhi. He gave estimates of the situation and plan of operations.
“General Otani stated that in his judgment present forces assigned to the expedition are insufficient to accomplish mission which was and remains solely the extrication of the Czechs west of Irkutsk between whom and us are 40,000 enemy forces and a double line of communications to make secure. The Czechs west of Irkutsk have little ammunition left and are otherwise in pitiable plight, so much so that their relief before winter is imperative if they are to survive. This can only be done in his (Otani’s) opinion by a rapid campaign with augmented forces. He asked the Allied Commanders to so represent to their governments and that they themselves send all forces immediately available and request Japan to send troops at once in sufficient numbers to meet the situation: 5,000 Canadians are en route. Japan has ready many troops. After asking each Commander if and how many of his troops were read to join in advance on Khabarovsk, he stated his intention of ordering an immediate concentration of all available forces and an attack.”
Several days later, on August 21st, Styer set forth General Order #5. It said in part: “This detachment has the distinction of being the first of the American Expeditionary Forces to land in Siberia. Each officer and man has the responsibility to adopting from the start a personal attitude which will help the American objects in uniting their military power to that of our Allies for the defeat of the enemy purpose in Russia. The good name of the United States and the maintenance of cordial relations with the Allied forces and with the Russian people requires perfect deportment of each member of this command. The situation of the Russian people is one that entitles them to our sympathy and consideration. After making great sacrifices and enduring great hardships in the conduct of the war, the Russian people now find their government disorganized in the process of changes started by the revolution and our behavior and attitude must always take this into consideration, so that no one at any time may justly charge any individual American officer or soldier with exploiting or criticizing these conditions. The absence of an efficiently organized civil administration necessitates unusual restraint on the part of all American officers and noncommissioned officers of their military authority to quiet any altercation, misunderstanding or disorder. All members of this Command are enjoined to refrain absolutely from political altercations or unfriendly criticism.”
It was in this Order that Styer also directed the Second Battalion of the 27th Infantry to relieve the railroad guards along the line from Vladivostok to Nikolsk.
In the two weeks that followed, American men were put through an ordeal that none will ever forget. They were forced on rides and marches through terrain and conditions which were unbelievable. They went into skirmishes with a will to win, skirmishes which should not have involved them at all.
It all started in Vladivostok when the exaggerated Japanese reports spurred the Allies into action in accordance with the plans outlined by the Japanese. It was not until some time later that the extent of this exaggeration was realized. Finally it was discovered that heavy reinforcements were not needed for an immediate offensive. Apparently the request for Allied troops was arranged so that the soldiers would arrive after the Japanese had waged their campaign and after they had gained the fruits of victory. But in all the flush of information given to Colonel Styer upon arrival, there had been little else he could have done except to rely upon the Japanese and comply with Otani’s express commands. History had not yet been written and no one could have known at the outset what lay in the vast unknown depth of Siberia; nor that the military situation had been misrepresented.
The Japanese had presented the plight of the Czecho-Slovaks as pitable. Yet at that time the Czechs occupied the banks of the Ussuri River and were supported by the Cossacks, the British and the French. Some Japanese detachments were also there. It became apparent that Japanese actions were motivated by aims of their own rather than by a spirit of cooperation with the Allies.
In addition to the burden of the astounding Japanese demands for American troops to leave Vladivostok, Styer was concerned with the quartering and supplying of his troops. At this point, his men were still aboard the transport.
Styer reviewed the situation with staff officials. Suitable barracks had to be found immediately. There would be a need for storage houses. The possibilities of Vladivostok as a source of supplies for the troops had to be investigated.
The general disorganization must have been most disheartening; it is unlikely that any expedition ever entered a foreign port with so little advance preparation and with so many confusing orders. The town was studied from one end to the other more than once and Colonel Styer wished that General Graves had been able to be with him in all his moments of decision and indecision.
Vladivostok with all its suburbs to the north and east was dotted with barrack groups said to be sufficient for some 70,000 Russian soldiers. This was good news indeed, until it was realized that as far as American soldiers were concerned it would not house that number. The standard cubic air space required for our men was much more than that allotted to Russian military men.
When the American officers visited the barracks they reeled in revulsion. The floors were covered with layers of excrement and filth and the whole was infested with vermin. There was no running water, no sewer system nor any provision for artificial light!
“Good God,” moaned more than one man, “what can we ever do with these?” They left the stinking quarters as fast as possible.
The barracks all conformed to a general plan. The dimensions of each were usually 100 x 50 feet. The structures were predominantly one story in height and built of brick trimmed with cut stone.
The barracks in Vladivostok as well as throughout Eastern Siberia had been built for Russian troops; all appeared to be of a standard type. There was usually an entrance at each end. Each building contained four small rooms twelve feet square. These were separated by a narrow hall terminating in a general squad room. Ceilings were twelve feet high. These rooms were used for administration purposes.
Each kitchen contained a typical Russian stove, usually four feet broad, three feet deep and six to eight feet high. Stoves were equipped with immovable small fire boxes and with huge iron or copper cauldrons of 50-gallon capacity. Generally there was no provision for cooking or baking on the top. Further investigation revealed that there was no provision whatever for the cleaning of utensils!
The officials learned that garbage and waste water had usually simply been thrown down a hole in the floor. The Americans were learning about life in Siberia.
“Where did the soldiers eat?” asked one of the officers, for there was no mess hall in any of the barracks.
They were to find out that Russian soldiers went into the kitchen to receive their food which was then eaten in the Squad Room. This room was lighted with the customary double windows which provided about the same degree of light as the Americans had been used to in the States. The Squad Room was heated by another large brick or cast-iron stove which was lined with firebrick. These stoves were about four feet square and ten feet high. The firebox was small and required hours of firing until sufficient heat was generated. They were, however, adequate to heat a room ventilated in a manner to which the doughboys were accustomed.
It was learned that in Siberia, with the onset of cold weather, buildings were hermetically sealed to conserve fuel. Eastern Siberia had little available as a result of the disorganization of the railways. Available coal was inferior in quality.
Stoves in the officers’ rooms were miniatures of those in the barracks. At regular intervals in the barracks groups a typical Russian bathhouse was located. This was a one-story affair where provision was made to expose from twenty to forty men at one time in the conventional Russian bath followed by a cold plunge.
As he studied the situation in Vladivostok, Styer became increasingly more troubled. It did not take him too long to realize that the Allied military objective required prompt reorganization of the railway administration. Seated on board the WARREN on August 17, 1918, he wrote: “The American Railroad Engineers are right in Harbin and have been ready to do the necessary reorganization. Some of them are also in Vladivostok now. They are prepared with full knowledge of the situation based on full investigation and practical cooperation. As a military measure of the first importance I believe they (The Russian Railway Service Corp) should be placed in charge of the railway administrations at once. I propose to so represent to my government by cable today, with the recommendation that the services of these engineers be formally placed at the disposal of such military official or body as may be appointed by the Allied Commanders to supervise the military use of the railway necessary to joint operations. Your views are requested.”
While Styer and other officials were trying to investigate the situation and arrange for barracks for the doughboys, the latter were tramping up and down the transports wondering when they could set foot on land again. As a matter of fact, the officers had similar thoughts.
When the men finally left the transports they learned that the British, French and Japanese were already there. The Czecho-Slovaks were everywhere and the White Russians and Bolsheviks were both entering the city by carloads. Those “grinning Chinese coolies” already discussed, were present in every group and new leaders were screaming to the Russians to join their particular kind of Government.
The Cossacks were sniping at the peasants who were scowling so bitterly one could almost here their oaths.
Yes, the wharves that mid-August of 1918 offered quite a sight; there were meticulously dressed business men, unclothed and unbathed urchins and men, women and children in a variety of costumes all intermingled.
To our soldiers in their neat olive drab it was perhaps the beginning of the strangest series of experiences they were ever to face. One man said that the most peculiar happening that he witnessed on his first day was a pompous, well dressed business man “stepping over a stinking dead animal, covered with vermin, right in the middle of the street as though it was a perfectly ordinary thing to do.” The soldier added that he “felt dizzy and distracted by all the disorders and by the sights and smells.” The men had no sooner set foot on land than they were assailed by one rumor after another. Furthermore, none of the officials seemed to have any idea of what to do with the army once it got on shore. The prevailing disorganization has not been forgiven by many a man to this day. The faith they had in their country began to waver. A doubt disturbed them, one they wanted to push aside, but a doubt nevertheless. As they were shunted from one place to another in the months ahead and had become accustomed to the confusion and chaos in Siberia, this doubt faded; they never did, however, ever completely forget those first disappointments. They had believed that Uncle Sam would surely have barracks and chow ready for them upon arrival.
As though it was not confusing enough to view the melting pot of the world at Vladivostok’s front door, the 1500 arrivals were about to face a local stike!
Local labor, although in apparent need of money, refused to unload the transports. This work was now left to the ocean-weary soldiers. It meant no sight-seeing, no rest, no chow; just hard labor.
The officers too were furious at the disorganization attending their arrival; the strike was about the last straw.
When the Russian laborers saw that the Americans were about to do their own unloading, they recanted and agreed to work after all. They were then told to go to hell by the officers; the men of the 27th did the work.
Emotions remained mixed. There were always a few who professed to have had no surprise or amazement at the treatment. One man said, “It’s always the same in any port.” Others disagreed violently. Many put the unpleasant aside and recalled the reception they had received. They never forgot the wonderful and strange arrival and recall to this day that they were met in the harbor by the Czecho-Slovak soldiers who nearly “raised the roof” when they saw the Americans. “Those fellow sure made us know that they were glad to see us,” one man said.
But when the men left the ships and had had a chance to talk to those who could understand them, they became fearful in spite of the size and obvious commercial status of Vladivostok. The fears that had assailed them on the transport regarding wolves and Bolsheviks had been allayed, had released tens of thousands of German and Austrian prisoners of war who were going to treat the Allies as enemies, they began to wonder how the situation was to be met.
When the Americans put the town under closer scrutiny it still seemed a quaint place, not as beautiful as they had at first though. Otto Korn expressed it this way when he had fist landed: “It was as though the wheels of time had stopped turning about a century ago. The quaint old buildings on cobblestone streets were pleasant to look at, but oh the filth when you came closer! Most of the people were emaciated looking and poorly clad. The men were bewhiskered usually, and wore knee length boots. This seemed the custom throughout the land. They had Tonnerville Trolley type streetcars mostly driven by fat sloppy women often in dirty house dresses or aprons. The cars were usually loaded down with people, many carrying large bundles of belongings wrapped up in bedsheets or tablecloths, or the like. Pigs and chickens ran in and out of the front doors of the homes, which were built right on the sidewalks–and this was in the busier parts of the town where the streetcars and cobblestones were. Their highways or rural roads were unpaved; practically ungraded. When wet they were quagmires and when dry they were dusty and nothing but ruts and bumps. Then there were the collies who went around and cleaned out the latrines. They were called the ‘honey dumpers’. Beverage systems and inside plumbing was not too prevalent. Lost every town we subsequently came to had a Japanese red light section, but at the same time most every village had a church. The Greek Orthodox Church with its double cross bar became a familiar sight no matter where we went. As congenial and friendly as the Russians seemed to be, life was still very cheap. A person did not have much trouble losing life. The entire atmosphere to me seemed to be one lawlessness. I believe that many people were murdered and there was nothing down about it.”
It was soon learned that the masses of material piled up at dockside were actually the supplies and munitions about which the Americans had heard so much. They had been told so often that the material had been sent to Siberia by the Allies. No one had to tell them what might happen if those supplies fell into the hands of the released German prisoners! It might mean victory for the enemy. The Americans realized that it would be a fight to the finish if the prisoners seized those supplies. Furthermore, the Americans knew that the Bolsheviks and others would contend for money as well as the very clothes on a man’s back.
“Be wary of any man,” the doughboys were told, “no matter what kind of a uniform he may be wearing for you never know when a Bolshevik will be dressed up like a White Russian Admiral.”
Many of the Americans were ‘bitching’ about their accommodations. George Vandenburgh said that they were temporarily placed in old Russian quarters which were “full of cockroaches. We spend several days with candles lighting them as they ran up the walls. It was bitterly cold at night and we were not issued warm clothing for some time.”
Julian Sheppard recalls meeting Czecho-Slovak soldiers that had “captured the town and taken a good deal of prisoners. They were kept in he old round house and there were some very rough people among those prisoners.”
The whole situation, the sights and sounds and advice, did not make for a very relaxed atmosphere. Furthermore, the Americans were told to watch out for unexpected raids. These were frequent they heard, and one never knew when they were going to come. All this sage advice was from the few in the seething mobs who could speak the men’s own language. The Yanks were also told: “Good God men, you had better get other clothes and quick.” This caused concern. They were hot and contented when they arrived in August, but at night it was quite a different story. Sometimes the temperature dropped unbelievably and before long the Americans heard that it would go to 60 degrees below zero.
“Save up your grease,” the soldiers were advised, “for a month or so you will have that stinking stuff on your face, or your skin will crack. You won’t be able to stand the cold, or the stench of the grease, so what’s the difference.” Sardonic laughs accompanied the information.
“It’s a lovely place here,” said one Tommy to a Yank, “wolves howl at night, bandits prowl by day and by night, murder and unburied bodies are an everyday occurrence. Yes man, quite a lovely, lovely place.”
The new arrivals did hear one favorable thing about Vladivostok. That was that the city had “nice Chinese tea shops.” This sounded good, yet more than one nose wrinkled when there came to mind the Chinamen they had seen at the waterfront.
So this was what they had come to. This was the vast frozen wasteland full of wolf packs that would be lined up at the dock; and then they were told to visit a nice Chinese tea shop! With no wolves in sight, what a topsy-turvy world!
While they waited for a suitable place to be quartered they had increasing conversations with those who had preceded them. They learned of the vanguard of Czecho-Slovaks who had come overland from Europe with rifles and they had entered from the land side and eventually fought the Bolsheviks from one railway station to another, and how as a result of this the very air of each town reeked with desolation. The Americans were told that the Bolsheviks had welched on an agreement with the Czecho-Slovaks who were not about to accept a double cross; they fought back. Riots were the order of the day.
The Americans wondered what it would be like in those outlying districts along the tracks. Would they be sent there? They saw that Vladivostok had not remained immune from war for there were bullet-riddled buildings and many windows were still devoid of glass.
Perhaps the most comforting sight that the doughboys enjoyed was that of the majestic BROOKLYN and the sailors and marines aboard her. They called to the ship with much affection.
“Good luck, guys,” Emmett Hoskins, a sailor, called back. “You are our regular army and we are with you all the way.” And the sailors meant it. Hoskins wrote in his diary: “The troops looked wonderful to us. There were young soldiers, and those with hash marks, and we knew they were the backbone of our army and would be a good fighting outfit. But we could not help but notice the difference in ages and builds. Some were so tall, some short, some thin, some fat; but all military of the United States of America.”
Although it was good to see the Americans on the BROOKLYN as well as the English and the French troops, the general effect was almost awesome.
It was difficult for an American to evaluate the ethnology of Siberia after viewing the population in the streets that late summer of 1918. Those of the better class seemed to be of Russian origin as did the multitudes of peasants. Yet there appeared to be a large proportion of Chinese, Koreans and members of native tribes from the Northern Provinces. In addition there were the Germans, Austrians, Turks, Czecho-Slovaks, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Italians, Poles, Jews, Romanians, Siberians and others. For years Siberia had been the depository for political and criminal prisoners. Many of these were educated but penniless, the shabby genteel of the country. It was not until the turn of the century that Russia imprisoned her criminals in Russia rather than exiling them to Siberia. At any rate, the sons of cutthroats and intellectuals walked side by side through the muck of the streets of Vladivostok.
The American Intelligence Section was immediately placed in the preliminary staff arrangements upon its arrival. The group maintained close relations with the Flagship BROOKLYN as well as with Japanese and Czecho-Slovak Headquarters as well as the British and French Military Missions.
The American personnel were pleased indeed to know that they were surrounded by their Intelligence Section which they felt would keep them informed about conditions. An Intelligence Officer controlled the Engineer Detachment until September 11, 1918. Subsequently the Detachment was separated and placed under the command of an Engineer Officer. The Engineers had been occupied from the time of their arrival. Sixteen officers were provided for in the Headquarters Building and five field parties of three men each had started work on a reconnaissance map of Vladivostok and vicinity with an attached index to show location, construction and size of all buildings available for military purposes; principal buildings for the city were also indicated.
The Veterinary Unit was responsible for the welfare of animals. This unit had its own special problems as each piece of stock had to be examined by John A. McKinnon and Civilian Farrier William Humphries. It took some time to find that the 130 head of horses and 340 mules were in excellent condition and that they “suffered no ill effects from the trip.” Nothing was said about the mule which had been reported earlier to have died of seasickness. When the mules were debarked they were picketed at the Custom House docks. The stock was kept on these docks for six days and then transported to a compound of the Base & Line of Communications.
When Co. M, 27th Infantry, landed it used the sheds belonging to the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Some of these sheds were also used for storage rooms and one served to house the German and Austrian prisoners of war. Five hundred of the latter worked for the Americans in their sector. The prisoners were good workers; many had been to the United States.
Major Richard Allen of the Quartermaster Reserve Corps was assigned to duty as Quartermaster of the AEFS. On August 21, 1918 Major Allen was relieved by Lt. Colonel G.H. Williams, Infantry, as Acting Chief Quartermaster. Williams continued at this post until the arrival of Colonel E.J. Gallagher, Chief Quartermaster, on September 29th. The personnel that had accompanied the Expedition from the Philippine Islands included Major Allen, Captain L.J. Wechsler, 2nd Lieutenant Harry Feigleson and Frank L. Talmadge. In addition there were also one Field Clerk and 28 enlisted men.
The organization which arrived from Manila was equipped with Equipment C based on peace strength of organizations. The supplies necessary to equip these to full war strength with Equipment C and special Alaskan clothing (to enable them to endure the Siberian winter) were shipped later from the United States in accordance with requisitions prepared prior to the departure of the Commanding General.
The Quartermaster Division had commenced operations as early as August 7, 1918 when the first troops left Manila. Captain Wechsler was relieved on September 4, 1918 by Lt. Clifford C. Patterson, Q.M.C.
It was subsequently found that the Baldwin buildings, occupied as officers quarters, troop barracks, hospitals, stables, etc., were in bad repair, requiring a considerable outlay of material and labor to make them habitable and warm for winder living.
When the buildings were used as warehouses by the various departments it was found necessary to reinforce the floors as they were found inadequate to carry the storage of supplies. Adjustments were made by Russian carpenters under the direction of the Quartermaster Corps. War prisoners were used as laborers.
Since the water supply was poor, distilling plants were installed at the Base Evacuation Hospital. A bathhouse with 56 showers was built at the plant at the Base. The hot water from a condenser was used for bathing.
The Quartermaster Corps was to be kept busy for some time to come. A laundry was constructed by this unit for the use of the Evacuation Hospital. In order to provide transportation for the troops it was necessary to equip boxcars with wooden bunks. The latter were built the width of the cars at each end and were long enough to provide a comfortable bed. Cars were also provided for the transportation of animals.
Much of the above work was started soon after the men had landed. It was found necessary to construct new roads to and from the Base and around the Warehouse. Four thousand feet of foundation rock was laid 20 feet in width and 18 inches in depth. This was done under the supervision of the RRSC with POW labor.
After the confusion of the first landing had subsided, it became necessary to instal spur tracks (a total of 1,190 feet) parallel to the docks at the Base. These were placed to facilitate the loading and unloading of future transports. Railroad material belonging to the Chinese Eastern Railway was utilized for this purpose.
The inhabitants of the city saw the first American doughboys marching through the streets on August 18, 1918. The soldiers were en route to the front.
- The Parade -
It did not take the Americans long to hear that there was to be a big Allied Parade on August 19th. The men who remained in the city were to march through the streets in all their glory. The whole town was to be out to watch. And that was no exaggeration.
James Whitehead wrote to his wife at 10 pm the night of the 19th and said: “The Americans sure looked wonderful. There were about 1200 of them, all fully equipped. “Not all the troops were in the parade either,” he explained, “but there were enough to show the Russians a good sample of Americanism. I was up on a balcony with some Russian friends and sure had a wonderful view.”
Eugene Streed recalled that his detachment of Marines were parading between two bands which kept playing different tunes! “It sure was hard to keep in step.”
The parade started at 4 pm and the men were escorted by a company of Czecho-Slovaks as they strutted down wide Svetlanskaya Street. It was all very thrilling with the Czech bank playing for all it was worth.
A Guard of Honor also paraded down the street and was received by line of Allied officers. The public was wildly enthusiastic. The entire city joined in the air of celebration.
The reviewing officers included Admiral Knight of the U.S. Navy and Gen. Dietrichs, the general who was commanding the Czecho-Slovaks. American and Allied Consuls were also on hand.
Along the route the guards of the march were unarmed and were spaced at eight-foot intervals. These consisted of Americans, Czecho-Slovaks, Japanese and Russian soldiers as well as French, Japanese, British, Chinese and American sailors and marines. After the great showing the Americans returned to the transport.
RRSC corpsmen Porter Turner observed that there were about a thousand troops following the band and that there were also different supply wagons and autos. “They sure made a grand showing and were given a glad hand by all the leading people here,” he wrote.
Julian Sheppard of Co. K 27th Infantry was proud of the Colors of the Regiment as were all the men of that outfit. He notes “We paraded through the town. Movies were taken of our Regiment.”
The 27th Infantry Regimental Colors were first carried ashore to be displayed in the parade.
Later it had been rumored that the 27th had lost its Colors. Many of the men hotly denied this and James Merati reported that the Colors were always in front of Colonel Morrow’s headquarters. Merati stated that “they were displayed every single day and were always with the Regiment Headquarters Company. It may be that the 27th was split up into to many companies that it just seemed as though the Colors had been lost.”
Years later a version of what really happened appeared in an article by John W. Wike in the February 15, 1955 issue of “The Wolfhound.” The article had been published by the courtesy of “The Quarterly Journal Military Collector and Historian.” “The Wolfhound” was the official publication of the 27th Infantry Regiment and had been printed for that organization during the Siberian intervention.
Wike stated that the 27th Infantry Regiment (The Wolfhounds) received as much praise as any other unit in the army and that it was praise justly deserved. “At the same time,” he reported, “it has also been the victim of one of the worst type of rumor to befall a fighting outfit, namely that it lost its colors in Siberia in 1919 while part of the Siberian Expedition. This story has, in one version or another, been making the rounds since 1920.”
Mr. Wike said that he felt that it was time to kill the rumors and explain that in mid-August 1918 the 27th Infantry Regiment paraded their Colors on the 19th of the month and were reviewed by General Otani, Admiral Knight, Colonel Styer and others.
“From that moment,” Wike stated, “to the end of its stay in Russia, the 27th acted in the best traditions of the United States Army and when its soldiers embarked from Russian soil in December 1920 they did so with the praise of the local Russians and the Allies ringing in their ears.”
Exactly one year after the parade, on August 19, 1919, Colonel Morrow requested new Colors. The old ones had been in service for fourteen years and he reported that the silk had so disintegrated that repairs were not practicable. He also requested permission for the unit to retain its current Colors as no others were available and he did not want the regiment without its Colors while in Siberia. Four days later his request was approved and a cable was sent to the States for new Colors. The 27th also received permission to retain the old ones. On September 4, 1919, General Graves was informed that the Colors had been shipped from Jeffersonville, Indiana as early as April 30th. A further report indicated that the Colors had left San Francisco on June 5th. They started to the Regiment but never reached it and thus the rumor started that the Colors had been lost. “Far from being lost in disgrace,” Wike stated, “they do not seem ever to have been received. They were lost in transit.”
Wike proved his point by asserting that on April 21, 1922, when the unit was stationed in Hawaii, another request was made, noting that the Colors had been in use for sixteen years. This indicated that the flags then in use were the same original Colors that had been identified as being too ragged in 1919. They had not been lost at all; they were just a bit more ragged. At last, in 1922, new Colors reached the 27th and the old ones were put to rest.
It might be mentioned here that the 27th Infantry was organized during the Spanish-American War for service in Cuba. It also served in the Philippines at Mindanao in the campaign against the Moros; then it returned to Fort Sheridan in the States and on to the Mexican Border and Vera Cruz. The unit then returned to the Philippines; from here it left for Siberia.
- Arrival of the SHERMAN -
On August 21, 1918 the army transport SHERMAN arrived at Vladivostok with the men of the 31st Infantry Regiment. They had come from the tropical Philippine Islands.
The men debarked directly on the dock. On this occasion there were no strikers. Apparently, the Russian workers were loath to lose pay as they had upon the arrival of the 27th Regiment. After the unloading, however, when the laborers again had money, they again resorted to striking just at the time that the SHERMAN was ready to depart at 5 pm.
In a history of the 31st Regiment, it is noted that a tent camp had been established by the men at Gornostai Valley in the northern Vladivostok sector. Some detachments of Americans were sent there prior to being sent out along the Ussuri line.
Clint Stephenson of the 31st Regiment stated that when they reached the tent area it was almost dark. “The Captain halted the company and said we could find our tents. My squad found one and pitched tents. That night nearly everyone froze to death. All we had was one little blanket. When we awoke in the morning and saw the way we had pitched our tents in the dark we had to laugh at the crazy set of alinements.”
Stephenson was suffering from dysentery and could not go on. He reported sick and was placed on a boat and taken to “some island where the Japanese and the Red Cross had a hospital.” He observed: “I was taken by stretcher. A Japanese nurse then put me in a tub and gave men a bath. Later I was assigned to a four-bed ward and found myself with three English soldiers. My bed had no mattress or springs, just a blanket over bare boards. When the Japanese doctor found out I was an American I was pretty sure I was going to live. I didn’t think he would risk letting his first American soldier die. But I must say he knew his profession for in a few days I was blocked from the runs.”
Stephenson said that the doctor came in one morning and stated that he was going to administer an enema to Stephenson.
“I didn’t know what an enema was so I told him I wanted CC pills.”
The answer was “No. You will take an enema.”
“Later a nurse came in with a bottle with a long hose attached. I tried to drink from the hose, not knowing the function of an enema. The poor nurse was distracted as she spoke no English. The Tommies were guffawing. One of them told me what an enema was. When I heard, I absolutely refused to have one.”
Then Stephenson heard rumors that the outfit was leaving for Moscow. He did not want to be left behind so begged for permission to leave.
The doctor’s reply was “No.”
The Englishmen shook their heads in disbelief and said that they could not understand Americans.
UNREADABLE ………… fight and yet you want to get out.”
The doctor came in and said he did not understand Americans either and added: “One day you are nearly dead and the following day you want to get out.”
The young soldier did recover after remaining in the hospital for a month. Upon finishing officer’s school later, he remarked, “Sergeants Beck, Cranford and I turned in our commissions and were subjected to a two hour’s reprimand regarding the spending of governmental money needlessly. Nevertheless, I stayed with the Officers’ Mess until the following May when we went up to Shkotovo.”
Other men of the 31st Regiment recalled the arrival at Vladivostok. Harry Rohrer reported that after finally docking, the gangplank was lowered and the “men filed down to good old terra firma. Cripes it was good to be on land again.” Irving Dexter recorded in his diary that they made camp on the 22nd of August and worked the next two days. Guy Killman noted that after they arrived they were shipped out on the railway to different detachments. “Company M was scattered later in small detachments for about 100 miles. Our company was only 75 strong at the time. We never got any heavy clothing until we got back to Vladivostok where we received new men to make up our lost strength of 250 men. Then we were shipped to the Suchan Mines. While there, a good deal later, we did receive our heavy clothing.”
Earl R. Perry recalled that they were given shots and then mustered out to different commands. “I drew Headquarters Company, 31st Infantry and was given a briefing.”
On the morning after the arrival, the men awoke to reveille and wondering what the day would bring forth.
Rohrer stated that they had brief calisthenics in the cold air and then fell in for a breakfast of bacon, coffee and spuds. He was a member of K Company, 31st, which was assigned to guard the Base of Supplies and the German POW’s.
V.E. Hockett, with Company B, recalled the large brick barracks which were made available but said that the men were kept moving from one of these to another while on guard duty.
Jesse Ward of M Company recalled that most of the men were disgusted with the poor sanitary conditions in Vladivostok. He added: “The city had an odor that I can still smell, by fancy, after over 50 years.”
Rohrer and Asa Williams expressed disgust at the general conditions and Harry Bullard of H Company stated: “Being surprised is expressing it mildly. The Japanese seem to have everything under their control.” Victor Stanfield recalled his first duty. “It was a 24-hour guard duty at the Base. The Third Battalion of the 31st was commanded by Lt. Colonel S.C. Loring.”
Corporal W.H. Johnson who was with the Headquarters Band and Company C wrote his dad that after a pleasant trip, except for a rough day on the China Sea, they had shore leave at Nagasaki and enjoyed the sights before leaving for Vladivostok. His letter, written August 28, 1918, was severely censored. He stated: “I have been in Siberia for seven nights and have not slept twice in the same place, and have only had my shoes off three times. We are located in a large brick building now but no telling how long we will stay here. I don’t have the least idea where the rest of the Regiment is for we are all stationed at different posts….There are some (censored) troops who are bloody well buggered up in the first part of the war, also a (censored) troops. Have seen a lot of (much censoring) and some of our troops have the pleasure of guarding them at work (very long censoring). We have been very busy and are not allowed to leave quarters after 6 pm. I don’t know of any of our troops being killed yet but one was wounded. Our work is dangerous but there has not been any fighting in the city for over a month. The city is in the hands of our Russian Allies but it isn’t safe to be out at night. We have armed enemies (censored) away and there was a bunch of Russians, who had been wounded, at the dock to meet us as we came in. So we stand a good chance of seeing some action. The sailors from an (censored) gave us a cheer when we came in but now we are separated from the rest of the world. We can’t talk and have not received any mail as yet, but sometimes we get a little news from the ship in the harbor. Have learned some Russian words already and have a great time teaching the Russian soldiers our language and learning theirs. I am getting along fine but notice quite a change in the climate and from the looks of the buildings it must get pretty cold here in winter. Don’t worry about me here for I am having the time of my life. Most likely a few of use will meet a bullet some night on guard but that is to be expected in a place where there is so many different factions as there is here. I have had a experience of an army on the move now and have had to sleep in our little pup tents a couple of times. If I could write everything I wanted to this would be quite a letter but I suppose our mail will be censored.”
The civil war that had been raging resulted in the overrun of partisan bands and guerrillas and, although the United States was not at war with any faction, the troops were frequently fired upon. The small detachments were kept busy chasing these bands and in some cases several companies were organized to march against the resistance. Strong tactical positions had to be taken along the railroads.
The men who were to leave Vladivostok were told that they were to guard the Trans-Siberian Railroad and assist the Russian Railway Service Corps to keep traffic moving. They were also to guard American supplies, munitions, ordinance and property for the Allies. They were to assist the Czecho-Slovaks and the Russian Police in preserving order.
When the troops landed companies were formed and assignments were made. Jesse Ward said they ate their meals out in the open on the wharf and a lot of children gathered around them begging for food. Ward recalled, “I heaved a potato with a jacket on, to one of them and he said ‘spacebo’ so I learned my first Russian word.”
The Signal Corps was attempting to keep the American Headquarters advised of all happenings. Some 30 messages were sent out by wire each day. These mounted to about 1000 words each. In addition, there were press bulletins for the Committee for Public Information to all troops between Vladivostok and Chita which also came to about 1000 words daily. This work kept the Signal Corpsmen on the alert.
Communications were also established with various points of importance to the expedition. Line #219 from Vladivostok to Khabarovsk and a number of branch connections were made with communications eventually extended to Chita, some 1850 miles from Vladivostok, via Khabarovsk.
Much of the information has been taken from correspondence, diaries, letters and personal records of the men who served in Siberia.
WDNA refers to War Department section of the National Archives in Washington.
RRSC refers to the Russian Railway Service Corps.
dedicated to Edith M. Faulsitch (Fisher)
and her life’s work as a postal historian relative
to the American Soldiers (A.E.F) in Siberia during WWI.
Ms. Faulstich was also an internationally known
Philatelic Jurer, journalist, and
the first woman president of the US Postal History Society.
It is my hope to keep her writing alive without personal gain.
All the work herein is Copyrighted under her name(s),
and should be cited as such.
Faulstich, Edith. M. “The Siberian Sojourn” Yonkers, N.Y. (1972-1977)