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The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 17

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 17

F & G Companies, 27th Infantry Regiment
En Route to Sviyagino

The Americans were amazed at the speed with which their first troops were shuttled in and out of Vladivostok.

On the night of August 17, 1918 Nick Hochee, Corporal of the Guard on the MERRITT, had become irritated by the bitching among the men who had been left on the transport. His company, Co. F of the 27th Infantry, was on duty. It was to remain at post until 10 am on the 18th when Company H was to relieve it.

As dawn approached Hochee was gazing at the twinkling lights of the city; he wondered what might be going on out there. He was startled in his reverie by the approach of Company H coming to take over the watch. He recalled that his first impression was that “something serious must be in the wind to have this change of orders.”
Apparently H company knew nothing except that it had orders to prepare to take over guard duty at 6 am instead of at 10 am as had been ordered originally. While the men breakfasted they discussed the new twist. At 9 am they assembled for an officers’ call in dining quarters.
At 10:30 am Lt. George T. Herrick, the young commander of F Company, told the men they were to get off at once with everything — barrack bags and all. There was a scramble for equipment accompanied by thoughts of a fine day of sight-seeing in Vladivostok.
No sooner had the men debarked they were informed that they had been detailed to guard the railroad between Vladivostok and Nikolsk-Ussuri. Company G was to accompany them.
The men were detailed to the following stations:

Vladivostok 22 soldiers
Parvaya Rechka (1st River) 24 ”
Vtoraya Rechka (2nd River) 24 ”
Ugolnaya 56 ”
Nadeshdinskaya 12 ”
Tunnel 24 ”
51st Verst 6 ”
54th Verst 16 ”
Kiparosova 6 ”
Razdolnoe (Valley) 24 “

Total 214 Soldiers
Between Razdolnoe and Nikolsk 34 ”
Aggregate 248 Soldiers*
* As per listing in Packard’s report, page 27.

After the long ocean trip most of the men, especially those who had been seasick, were unsteady and yearned to get their landlegs again. Their thirst for beauty had not been quenched by one short look at what seemed to be a fairy-tale city. The joys they felt when they realized they were the first troops to view the scene vanished with the news of the immediate exit they were to make. But orders were orders. The two companies left at once. They headed northward in tropical garb with ten-minute intervals of rest. They did not yet realize that their exodus was ultimately to become a six-day, 90-mile forced march which has been likened to the Death March of Bataan.

It was a march about which the official records say almost nothing. It was a march which was not mentioned in General Graves’ book or in his official reports. Yet it was a march which was recalled with painful clarity by each man who participated in it.
At the time of the debarkation they knew only that they were to participate in some kind of mop-up skirmish to the north. Once they stepped on land they saw that conditions were quite sorrowful. The stench of the city spoke of primitive sanitary facilities; the Americans began to wonder it, after all, they were not lucky to be able to leave that smell behind.
Company F was in the lead. After marching about three-quarters of a mile a railroad siding was spotted on which nine boxcars and two gondolas stood. The men were told to climb aboard and “make yourselves at home.” What a joke! In wartime jokes are generally funny in retrospect only.
Company G followed and occupied the last four cars.
The two gondolas were then loaded with wagons, hay and horses. At about 10:30 am everything was in readiness to move, but there was no engine to pull the train. As from time immemorial, the soldiers waited.
Noontime came and went. There was no evidence of movement anywhere. Chow was eaten but still no action. Cramped conditions were aggravated by full field equipment, 100 rounds of ammo, emergency food packs as well as other odds and ends. Conversation waned. Wonder and anxiety prevailed. Sweat poured from the mens’ brows and unpleasant odors assailed their nostrils. A short, stocky fellow announced authoritatively that he had heard that they were off to the Ussuri front.
“Yeh, so did we,” yelped another, “but where in hell is it? We don’t have any maps you know.”
“Who gives a goddam as long as we get out of this stinking hole,” replied a third man.
At about two o’clock in the afternoon a patrol of Czecho-Slovaks appeared. They stared at the men sitting by the boxcars and the Company Commander immediately instructed the official interpreter, who had been attached to the company at its departure, to tell the Czechs of their predicament and to advise them that the United States Army was not used to waiting so long for service.
The interpreter, Hochee said, was “a real case.” He was named Loud Linny for he was forever stressing his cleverness. He claimed to have interpreted for admirals and generals. Later the men were to learn that he was nothing more than “a big blabbermouth, a good-for-nothing, and that he was also cruel and dishonest.” Being of English-Maylayan parentage, he was able to speak English.
After speaking with the Czechs, Linny reported that their reply was “You are in Siberia now and the law of the jungle predominates here.”
Lt. Herrick was puzzled and told Linny to explain that they, the Americans, had already put through the official order and there were no results.
The Czech replied: “If you wish to move, just take one of your squads or a whole platoon if necessary, and march down to that roundhouse about a half mile away and commandeer an engine and crew and get going. Otherwise you may be here for weeks.”
It sounded quite unorthodox to Lt. Herrick; it certainly was not the way things were done in the United States Army. After due consideration he took the advice and sent a detail down to the roundhouse. Finally, at about 4 pm, the boxcars lurched and the Americans moved out into the vast unknown interior of Siberia.
As the cars bumped along the Americans began to sing songs as Americans are went to do. One big, loud-mouthed man with a western drawl extemporized on the rumors and said that an English sailor had told him that bridges were all out and the roads all had cavernous ruts. “You damned Yanks will need wings to get boxcars over some of them,” the sailor had informed him.
Perhaps more than one American wondered how the sailor knew, and how the Westerner had had a chance to fraternize with a Tommy. They were to find the forecast only too true.
“If we get stuck and can’t get over the ruts maybe we will have a nice long quiet vacation,” one doughboy theorized. But the cars, cramped and uncomfortable, did not stop that day as the hopeful Yank had anticipated.
While the Yanks were complaining in the cars, an enemy force of two battalions and two batteries of four pieces had attacked Antonovka from the bridge northwest of Renovka. They had been repulsed by machine guns said to have been furnished by the French. The Bolsheviks had retired to Renovka leaving ten of their wounded behind.
This occurred on August 18th. A Russian contact squadron of four sections was sent out to deal with a party of bandits that day. The latter were in groups of ten men each and were pillaging the area. The bands were repulsed and the Russians advanced; in their retreat the enemy was looting and destroying bridges as they went.
On the second day out, August 19th, the train had stopped for fueling in a forest, the engine being a wood-burner. The fueling crew was in a state of panic resulting from what they had seen and heard; they took to the woods like wild hares and were not seen again.
As a result, Companies F and G of the 27th Infantry found themselves in the middle of a strange and foreboding forest without crew or guides. They had no notion of their location. At this stage they were not yet familiar with the terrain.
The doughboys took on the work of the departed crew. Uneasiness prevailed; an ominous air hung over everything.
Some thought that Company F had been sent out because it was the only company in the regular army with a First Lieutenant in command. Their Captain had been left behind in a Manila hospital. Those who liked Lt. Herrick felt that this was unfair but even they wondered why such an undertaking had been placed under the command of so young an officer. Others thought that Co. F had been sent out to be sacrificed in filling a hole in the firing line that was untenable.
Still others felt that they had been selected to go to the firing line as executioners to shoot deserters; that attitude did not make for relaxation.
The final rumor was the worst. Some had heard that this was a no-prisoners-taken war. Examination of the boxcars seemed to confirm this. There were markings on the cars indicating numbers of sick who had been thrown out to die in the Siberian ditches.
On the night of August 19th the Americans were encamped near the Japanese at Nikolsk; there they saw the horribly wounded from the battle from which there had been no retreat. It came clear to the doughboys that they were involved in something big. They were willing to do battle but thought it strange that they could see no enemy. That the latter were around was evidenced by the distorted and bloated dead which lay about. The Japanese rushed in more men and material but the enemy had vanished during the night, leaving only their dead.
Since Chinese bandits were still around, watches were posted. An added threat were the Bolsheviks who were certainly in the area. It was not at all like the battlefields of France where the location of the enemy was well known.
What was later to be called the Razdolnoye Affair was a night to remember as Nick Hochee recalled it. the Americans had been loaded on two gondolas and were moved westward about 15 miles. There a squad was let off for patrol duty; the others went westward for another mile. Hochee reported coming to a rut in a hillside. The engines halted and all but three guards disembarked.
“We went back a little and deployed using the roadbed for a parapet,” he stated. “We were facing sloping hills from which there was firing.”
As the firing came closer and with greater persistence, the men dropped rapidly to the ground squirming on their bellies before they realized that the pastoral terrain was well covered with animal droppings. When the firing eased off Hochee gave the order “Get up.” A private to his left wiped his face and remarked, “Yes, coming up — and for air too — phew.”
The firing stopped but resumed that night in the light of a bright moon. The Americans returned the fire and hoped for the best.
Private Steve Du Hart at Hochee’s right suddenly called out: “Corporal, I think I got hit.”
Hochee was stunned to see that the man’s face was bloodied. So it had come to this. One of his own men had been hit by those damned, stinking bandits. Hochee was furious. He began to pull Du Hart out of the line of fire, all the while called for medical aid. When help came Hochee said a silent prayer for Du Hart and rushed back to his place on the line. Hochee had never forgotten that moment. He recalled “I think I was the first to have seen a fellow American shed blood for the first time on Siberian soil.”
This incident had its ironic aspect; here were American men eager to fight the Germans in France, fighting along with the Japanese in Siberia and finding themselves wounded while pursing Chinese bandits on Russian soil!
Fortunately the timing for medical aid was excellent. Simultaneously with the departure of the troops from the Base it had become necessary to arrange for the evacuation of the sick and wounded on the line. Owing to the scarcity of rail transportation, a serious problem presented itself. The distance from Base to the line was too great and the roads too poor to consider other than rail travel.
After considerable difficulty with local authorities in Vladivostok, freight cars had been obtained. They were fitted with standee bunks from the WARREN, with Sibley stoves and bedding and medical and surgical supplies from the Regimental Hospital of the 27th Infantry. Necessary personnel was also detailed. In a matter of 19 hours completed cars were sent forward. They reached the troops just before Du Hart was wounded.
The official report stated that the Razdolnoye Affair was “an engagement between cooperating American and Japanese detachments against the Chinese.”
Company F was subsequently ordered into a small village north of Razdolnoye where bandits were reported pillaging in a village. Shots were exchanged here; one large battlefield was strewn with a hundred or more slaughtered men and horses. The temperature at the time was 90 degrees. One American reported: “Oh that awful smell. It was so bad I can smell it yet.”
After the firing at Razdolnoye stopped, Sgt. Burgland detailed two men to patrol the left bank and told Hochee to take two men to the hillside to determine if the enemy had left. Flashlights were used for signaling. When a spot about 300 yards up the hill was reached the men were ordered to halt. There they stayed with no gunfire to be heard, no bandits and no Bolsheviks; but instead of enjoying the respite, a new kind of enemy attacked – huge Siberian mosquitoes. These monsters were nearly as annoying as the now dormant enemy. They swarmed and bit and attacked the Americans as some enemy from another world. Orders finally came to return from the hillside. The Americans were never so happy to get orders.
A squad of soldiers remained for patrol duty while the others climbed aboard the gondolas to head westward. Every mile or so a squad of men was put off until only two men remained. The Americans discussed the situation and wondered what would happen if a large force approached. The small details at each desolate spot would have little chance of survival. Situations such as this plagued the Americans throughout the intervention.
On August 21st 400 Chinese bandits were reported to be on the line and to be approaching with rifles and machine guns. The Americans had arrived at a small railway station where a water tank was located. The company commander ordered Hochee to detrain his squad and to be prepared to fight in the event that the bandits would appear. The CO himself inspected the station with Loud Linny in tow as interpreter. Hochee’s squad was ordered to remain to guard the station. The engine left the area with the one remaining squad. Hochee posted two sentries and the others gathered to discuss the situation.
Loud Linny became jittery after talking with the station master. A small village was spotted at the top of a nearby hill; Linny insisted that the men should go there and take what they wanted by force before the bandits came through and took everything for themselves.
Hochee said: “Nothing doing. I am in charge and orders are orders. We stay here and guard the station.”
Linny replied: “I am not in the American army. I shall go by myself.” He started off.
“Halt,” commanded Hochee. “I will disarm you and put you under arrest if you try it.”
The interpreter grumbled and swore; finally he quieted down and, with the rest of them, alleviated his growling stomach with some pickles from a filthy barrel in the station.
Finally the soldiers were on their way again. They had experienced many interruptions, mostly unpleasant, and had witnessed far more aftermaths of attacks than they would have liked. As they saw how the bandits pillaged the towns and retreated, their own blood ran cold; many more such sights were to be seen before Sviyagino would be reached.
Repeatedly the Americans were routed from their boxcars and rushed on an alert to a specific area only to find that again they were too late. Hochee described one day when the company had marched to a small village eleven miles distant; too late again. They stood there tired and dismayed and observed the gruesome sight. A dead man was lying in the roadway; other villagers were found wailing in pain from beatings received. The burned-out village with its charred ruins gave off an adrid odor. Buzzing clouds of fat mosquitoes had appeared. Buzzards were disputing with each other for snatches of the flesh of the dead. Not a customary scene to leave the Americans unmoved.
“Why?” they asked. “What possible good did it do to kill and burn?”
Those women who remained, with their customary solemnity, were wailing and praying to their God for mercy and guidance. Most of them had been ravaged and abandoned.
The doughboys did what they could to help the survivors and then had to return to camp, sick in heart and in soul.
Asa Williams recalled that he saw Russian people hacked to pieces by knives and sabres. That sight remained with him for life.
The soldiers hoped fervently that they would arrive, at least once, in time to prevent such devastation. They wondered how much ore they would have to see before reaching Sviyagino. They had been told that this town would be the point of concentration for them and other Americans arriving from Vladivostok.
Forever etched upon the memories of the men who made that trip are the sights which they witnessed. One veteran recalled seeing several boxcars full of Russian men, women and children. Most of them had been brutally cut or mutilated. “The dying mass of humanity was so mutilated it made us feel dreadful. The poor souls were being taken by train to Nikolsk so that those in one piece could have some treatment but that was a distance of some 25 miles or more and we were pretty sure that not many would survive.”
In spite of the many unfamiliar sights and sounds which beset the Americans, their progress was slow. They saw destruction of railroad equipment all along the way. Bridges, trestles and tunnels had been dynamited; telegraph lines had been destroyed. The men began to doubt the existence of Sviyagino, but they continued.
One morning at about 2 am the buglers gave the call to arms and the men were up again, dressed or half-dressed, in quick time. With rifles in hands they rushed to the gondola to which the engine had already been attached. They were taken some five miles. Again they were too late.
“Again bandits had already done their dirty work and left. It was disheartening,” one man stated.
There was nothing to do except to return to camp. During that night, just before dawn, they were again called out on two occasions. Each time the pattern was repeated – the bandits had fled. After that sleepless night the men were permitted to sleep later than usual the next morning.
The Americans continued to wonder how much more they would have to endure and how many more disappointments they would have before they reached Sviyagino. Finally one morning at a small siding, Company G was ordered to detrain with all its equipment. Company F continued northward until about 1 pm. In a dense forest they were ordered off with full field packs but without barrack bags.
“What next?” was the thought as they regarded the large trees behind which Bolsheviks or bandits might by lying. The Americans were apprehensive if not downright scared.
F Company formed a skirmish line and advanced through the forest. Tension increased when the file on the left encountered a Korean carrying a gunnysack. He was stopped at once but violently insisted that he was a respectable merchant on his way to town and that his sack held nothing but rubles and kopecks to purchase the wares he needed.
After some conversation the Americans were inclined to believe him but Loud Linny did not. He called the Korean a thief and a liar, while he twisted the man’s arms and hands.
The company commander ordered Linny to stop the abuse. However, as a matter of precaution, the Korean was ordered to march along with the Americans.
The march continued all that day; the men were plagued not only by anxiety, but by hunger and fatigue as well. At about five o’clock that evening a small light was seen twinkling through the forest at some distance. A collective sigh of relief was in the air. It meant that the fear-ridden, miserable march was ended, at least temporarily. Thus far they had not been attacked; they prayed that their luck would hold up until their goal was reached – Sviyagino.
Fortunately, the cooks and the detail wit the train had arrived earlier and chow was well on the way. The weary marchers rejoiced loudly.
At last they had arrived somewhere. They pitched tents, washed, chowed up and bedded down for the night.
The following day the Americans learned that their wandering Korean was indeed a merchant and had told the truth. They were sorry the Loud Linny had mistreated the man; they reprimanded the interpreter in true army style.

– Others Out on the Line –

The fact that some soldiers had already left the city irritated those who remained in Vladivostok. This face concerned them as did many aspects of the so-called “Great Siberian Adventure.” When the troops had arrived no preparations had been made for them. True, there were cheers, bands and songs which made them feel welcome; but all those did not provide instant accommodations or a good meal. There was confusion and secrecy. Utter confusion existed at their billets. At least the men who were already on the move did not have any worry about their immediate destination before going to sleep that first night. The Americans who looked to chow, a good night’s lodging and time for sight-seeing were sadly shaken.

On the first day it was realized with astonishment that not one person among the arriving army had been entrusted with any data as to what the army was to do when it got ashore.
Added to the general concern was the eventual disposition of the discouraging pile of cargo which had been left on the wharfs. The men learned that the cargo simply had been swung off. Stacks of automobiles and other crated material had been piled high. When no more space had been available, stores had been loaded on the ice. When the ice had thawed the material had sunk to the ocean bottom. The men began to wonder if they would be billeted on the ice and that the same fate would befall them.
Then there was the enigma of the Japanese. They were supposed to be our allies but already strange stories were making the rounds.
According to Admiral Knight of the BROOKLYN, economic activity had preceded the military in the Japanese program. He declared unequivocally that there was a definitely conceived plan of economic penetration of Siberia by Japanese influence. Certain elements in Japan were said to be “willing to go to any length to secure control of the Chinese Railway through Manchuria. General efforts were made to establish a hold over mineral, agricultural, fishing, industrial and commercial enterprises east of Lake Baikal.”
These problems faced the American army officers upon arrival. The officers began to observe with interest the activities both in and out of Vladivostok.
On August 19th the Council in Vladivostok was alerted to the grave dangers of the Czecho-Slovaks west of Irkutsk, and of some 40,000 enemies between them and the allies. It was a situation which the Japanese said needed immediate action and rapid campaigning. Apparently this report was just another ruse, for it was learned later that the Czecho-Slovaks had practically been in undisputed control of the Trans-Siberian Railway from Ekaterinburg and Cheliabinsk eastward to beyond the tunnels and to the southern end of Lake Baikal; and they had held this control since August 17th.
As the officer continued to study conditions the soldiers continued to bitch about their accommodations. Car Hansen of the 27th Infantry reported that they were in four-man tents at first and lived therein until they moved to large barracks with walls two feet thick and with double doors and windows. “There was a big brick furnace in each room in which three-foot cordwood was burned. A man fired each furnace day and night. They were detailed for this as we were for the stable guard. We had two mules to each unit and had close to 40 mules and horses for the officers so we were kept busy.”
Lynn McQuiddy stated that the army barracks, after being cleaned out, were occupied by 250 men of the Ordnance, Quartermaster and Medical Corps. After mess they would give leftover food and coffee to begging children. “No water was piped into those thick-walled structures,” remarked McQuiddy. “We heated water for shaving outside with a wood fire and were allowed only one cup per morning. There was no toilet, but we had a latrine tent outside. One day the wind blew it down. This was the height of being exposed to the cold, cruel air. There was a water-well hole at the other end of the building. Some nights shallow water froze on the cement floor of our barracks. As for dishes, each soldier used his field mess kit and cleaned it after mess.”
When the men of the 31st arrived they believed, as had the previous arrivals that it would be good to see the city and find out what life was like in that strange port. No one had yet told them of the exodus of Companies F and G of the 27th Infantry. The 31st arrived on August 21st. On August 22nd Japanese Headquarters was informed that the 31st Regiment was available for field service. That very day the Third Battalion of the 31st was sent out to begin to relieve the 27th which had been on the road for several days.
The 31st arranged to entrain for the Ussuri front with Equipment A pursuant to verbal orders of General Otani. Again the dilatory habits of the railroad officials caused much delay. With the aid of five Russian Railway Service Corps men the regiment finally started. One section left at 5 pm carrying Headquarters Company, Machine Gun Company and parts of the Medical and Intelligence Detachments and a detail of the Supply Company.
One diary reports the departure thus: “The troops left for the northern front. There were two large troop trains that went out from here.” Another stated that the third section, carrying A, B, C, and D had the balance of the Supply Companies, Intelligence and Medical Detachments and left around 3:30 pm. “Progress was slow after passing Nikolsk. The roads were all single-track and we passed sidings congested with Japanese troops and supply trains. Delays of one to seven hours duration occurred and we had experiences at all stations.” The original plan had contemplated another spot as a concentration point for American and Japanese forces, but new developments on the Ussuri front resulted in enemy retirement of about 24 miles. This necessitated a change of plans.
Officially General Orders No. 1 written on August 26th at Vladivostok by order of Lt. Colonel Williams stated that the Third Battalion of the 31st Infantry, having reported to the Base and line of communications for duty in compliance with Paragraph 3 General Orders No. 4 Headquarters AEF Siberia, would take station at the following designated points:
31st Infantry

Officers Enlisted Medical Dept.
Vladivostok 1 24 1
Parvaya Rechka 0 24 1
Ftroia Rechka 0 24 1
Okhanskaya 2 89 2
Ugolnaya 0 24 1
Nadeshdinskaya 0 24 1
Tunnel 1 16 1
51st Verst 0 16 1
Kiparasova 0 16 1
Razdolnoe 5 40 1
Baranovski 1 32 1

Total 10 329 12

Morning reports from the above mentioned stations were to be serviced direct by wire daily so as to reach base headquarters not later than 9 am.

Twelve carloads of Japanese with a colonel in charge had been attached to Colonel Loring’s train. This caused great delay. Initially the Americans were forced to wait for four hours before the entrainment of the Japanese was effected. As the latter moved along, the situation became increasingly confused. Each army had its own orders. The Japanese were ordered to travel to the front with great dispatch. The latter had become highly annoyed and apprehensive over the delays at each outpost where a handful of Americans were detrained. And the Americans had sworn bitterly at the Japanese for delaying their own departure. “If they were in such a damned hurry they should not have had us sitting on our asses for four whole hours before we left.” Nevertheless the Americans who detrained nervously at each stop did sos with remarkable rapidity, for they had been arranged in order from front to rear with all rations assigned to each in the right car. The truth was that any stop that had to be made at all by the Americans had incurred the wrath of the Japanese.
The remainder of the 27th Infantry still in Vladivostok was also ready to move. Japanese Headquarters had been notified that the Regiment would be ready for field service. The latter would consist of 149 officers, 1375 enlisted men, 238 animals and 27 vehicles available for field work.
The two days after the 31st Infantry pulled out of the city, Lt. Col. Charles Morrow left Vladivostok with his men of the 27th.
‘ They entrained in two groups: one left on the 24th, the other on the 25th. Morrow, as commander of the 27th Infantry, was ordered to proceed to the zone of advance at Sviyagino. There he was instructed to become part of the Japanese 12th Division under General Oi.
All sections left in boxcars. The men and officers occupied practically the same type of accommodations. Sleeping arrangements consisted of two shelves with planks across the end of the car, one shelf above the other. Each shelf was assumed to hold five recumbent men. A stove occupied the center of the car.
On August 25th nine enlisted men in charge of Master Engineer, Junior Grade, Fred Schwartz left the city attached to the 27th Infantry. They carried with them map reproduction equipment consisting of mimeograph and mimeoscope supplies and sketching cases for reconnaissance work. En route to Sviyagino they made mimeograph reproductions of the Nikolsk-Ussuri sector. About 200 copies were supplied within six hours.
Also on August 25th the second section comprising Companies I, K, L, and M, and the medical attachments left Vladivostok at 8 am.
Progress to Sviyagino was slow and the trip in the cars was rough; there had been numerous attacks made upon railroad property. Bridges, trestles and tunnels had been blown up and telegraph lines had been severed. Morrow’s contingent arrived at Sviyagino in two sections, one at 4 pm and the other at 9 pm on August 27th. the entire regiment awaited orders from Colonel Morrow.

– At Sviyagino –

Morrow bellowed orders and things began to hum. Men, coarse of speech and without reverence, cussed the Colonel. Generally he was tagged either “Old Fuss and Feathers” or “Bull of the Woods.” The Colonel was a severe disciplinarian. Many privates and staff officers hated him, yet stood in awe of him. They knew he was an honest man who moved with quick decision.
Most of the men under the Colonel were rank amateurs in the waging of war. Morrow knew this and whipped them verbally until they assumed a military mien.

Morrow abhorred red tape. More than one man thought that the Colonel would have liked to have been Commander-in-Chief of the Siberian expedition, but what officer would not have liked that title? The Colonel had been a Sergeant-Major in the regular army and was, by any standard, considered a man’s man. “He meant what he said and had the guts to establish discipline. He was a heavy drinker but he never let it interfere with his work.”
He told his men “any son-of-a-bitch that gets hit with the whip of a Cossack and doesn’t shoot him will get six months.” The men knew he meant it.
A great talker, Morrow would make a speech whenever given an opportunity. Some men unaccustomed to oratory idolized him and thought of him as some kind of superior being. Others wondered how they could dislike the man so much yet admire him so deeply.
The period spent at Sviyagino lasted from August 27th until August 30, 1918. Grateful for the rest, the men relaxed, slept and hoped that cramped conditions in the boxcars would not be as bad when they set out again.
Sviyagino was a beautiful spot about 150 miles from Vladivostok. The Americans enjoyed the scenery. They hoped that there would not be too much sickness for there were only two medical officers with the entire regiment and only one hospital train.
The soldiers knew that they were going to see a lot of “Old Bull of the woods” in the days ahead. It would be some time before their final objective would be reached and Morrow was in complete charge.
The three-day rest ensued when Morrow complied with the follow message from General Oi: “Railway bridges at Kraevski and Shmakovka were blown down very badly by the enemy. . .A few days will be required to repair them. The enemy seems to have retired as far as Ussuri and there is no enemy to be found south of the river Kanli. The Allied troops will remain in their present position until the damaged bridges are repaired and allow the trains to pass. The American troops will stay in the south of Kraevski. I am at Headquarters Shmakovka.”
Then, on further orders from Inagaki, all of the railroad cars used by the Americans, with the exception of the hospital, ammunition and officers’ cars, were turned over to the Japanese. With these cars the Japanese were able to move the bulk of their forces toward Ussuri. The bridges north of Kraevski, eleven miles from Shmakovka, had been repaired.
The Ussuri River had an expanse of water at Shmakovka. There were islands in it with maples and elms and there were mineral springs near an adjacent monastery. But the road ran through marshes before reaching that location. Kaul Siding was about ten miles distant from Shmakovka at a spot just ahead of Ussuri Station. The railroad traversed a vast steppe which was believed to have been a former lake bottom. During the wet season the region was covered by water, condition which was to become familiar to the Americans.
At Ussuri Station the bridge had not been destroyed and it is significant to note that hardly had the routed enemy disappeared than the Japanese infantry forces occupied the site.
Meanwhile, the men of the 27th were furious at being left behind while the Japanese took their cars. The Americans decided that they had been hoodwinked while serving under the command of a Japanese general and wondered how soon General Graves would arrive to set matters right. Much as the men resented Col. Morrow’s harsh discipline, they realized that his hands were tied until the arrival of the American commander-in-chief. Morrow did express himself in his customary manner but all he could do was to report his orders to Vladivostok.
The Japanese moved forward in the American cars on August 28th. They reached the River Tanga and captured a 300-ton steamer at the settlement of Ussuri. From there the advance was pushed vigorously. There were no further reports of enemy forces south of Iman. The latter was a town with a population of about 30,000. Located there was a railroad restaurant and a small station. From this station a branch line ran to the wharf of the Iman River, about a mile distant. During the construction of the railroad Iman had been an important center. Bridges between Iman and Tanga were believed to be intact although ten small bridges need repair. Apparently this information was replayed to Shmakovka. Coincidence could hardly account for the fact that at 8:25 pm on August 28th the following divisional order was sent from the Japanese Headquarters to the Commanding Officer of the 27th Infantry:
1. I intend to continue our advance — north as soon as the railway conditions allow me to do so.
2. By your consent I desire the American troops under your command to withdraw from the camp at Sviyagino and proceed north to the monastery north of Medoceyia and to proceed there. Please take the road passing through Kunovka and Uspenka.
3. As regards the supply you will please manage yourself.
I am at Headquarters 12th Division, Shmakovka.
Oi (Lt. I.J.A. Commandant of 12th Division I.P.A.)

This order of August 28th reached Morrow at Sviyagino on the 29th at 8:30 am. He immediately wired Vladivostok stating that the monastery referred to was the Nikolsk Monastery six mile east. He added: “At present our supplies remaining at Sviyagino but hope to place them at Kraevski. March at 6:30 am tomorrow the 30th.”

During the day of August 29th the Japanese communicated further regarding the disappearance of the enemy south of Iman and stating that their utmost efforts could not replace the damaged railway bridges at Ussuri before Sept. 3rd.
The report continued: “In order to avoid the confusion of railway transportation the echelon of the 12th Division, which is now on its way to catch the main body of the Division, is obliged to stay at Spasskoe and is alighting from the trains there now. The American forces should continue their march to Ussuri Tomorrow (August 30th) evening.”
It was said that progress along the railway north of Ussuri had been maintained and that damaged bridges had not delayed the advance of sufficient Japanese forces to acquire all military objectives. On the 29th a cavalry squadron had skirmished to the west with five enemy transports en route to Iman. According to a report. . .”after an hour’s fight these transports fled, three Bolsheviks fell in the water.” One of the drowning men was captured and informed the victors that there were 500 men and two pieces of artillery plus eight machine guns on the transports, and that they were fleeing south of Lek Hanka.
At 9 pm that night the squadron sighted the rear of the enemy in two cars, one of which was armored. Nine Bolsheviki who had destroyed the railway bridges between Iman and Bikim were taken prisoners. Regarding the line Iman-Bikim, a subsequent statement declared that the railway between Iman and Bikim had not been out and that south of Iman the repair of the road was almost completed and that transportation by rail was being made.
Therefore it may be seen that the Japanese proceeded to advance along the railroad directly toward Iman and Khabarovsk while the American troops were sometimes instructed to make detours where roads were nonexistent.
Sources:
Medical Report WDNA
Packard’s report
Merl E. Stoyer, Co. L, 27th Inf.
Sheridan Ballard, Headquarters Co., 31st Inf.
Nick Hochee, Co. F, 27th Inf. and others
Porter E. Turner, Russian Railway Serivce Corps.
William C. Boggs, Headquarters Co., 27th Inf.
Joseph Demastrie, Co. I, 31st Inf.
Packard’s report
Packard’s report
Packard’s report
Priest’s Medical Report. Also History of 27th Infantry by Capt. George A. Hunt
Report of Operations of Engineer Detachment, signed by Earl W. Jennings, Capt. Corps of Engineers, WDNA
Jennings’ Report of Jan. 8, 1919
Nick Hochee; Raymond Lefebvre (27th Inf.); James J. Merati and others
Priest’s Medical Report; Nick Hochee and William C. Boggs
Packard’s report
Siberian and Eastern Russian, Part II, Pacific Coast to Irkutsk, Military Monograph, Subsection M.1.2., Military Intelligence Division, General Staff
Packard’s report
Packard’s report
Earl W. Jennings, Report of Operations Engineer Dept., AEFShe 27th Infantry reported that they were in four-man tents at first and lived therein until they moved to large barracks
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