Archive for the ‘WWI’ Category

Life History of Edith Margaret VanderPoel / Fisher / Faulstich

April 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Dee Faulstich

Faulstich was a pioneer student and collector of postal history. She campaigned extensively to have postal history recognized as a category at major exhibitions. She was a founder of the Postal History Society of the Americas (now the Postal History Society, Inc.). Faulstich helped the PHS through its early years as the first editor of its Postal History Journal, and as president from 1965 to 1967.

In her philatelic career, “Dee” edited Covers magazine, The Essay-Proof Journal and was associate editor of Western Stamp Collector. She wrote a stamp column in the Bergen (NJ) Evening Record and later in the Newark (NJ) News.

Faulstich built world-class collections of the postal history of the American Expeditionary Forces and the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in Siberia during World War I.


The Siberian Sojourn Volume II-Chapter 21

November 6, 2010 3 comments

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II-Chapter 21

General Graves and More Troops Arrive in Vladivostok

General Graves arrived on the THOMAS. It was a beautiful sunny day. The officers already in Vladivostok had arisen at four in the morning to greet the General aboard the transport. Graves was more than pleased with the warm welcome but had to part company at 11 am for a scheduled breakfast aboard the BROOKLYN.
His first official visit into he city was to call on General Otani in order to set straight the question as to whether the American soldiers would march under a Japanese flag. Graves told Otani: “I did not and in fact my orders were of such a nature that I could not relinquish control of United States troops.”
Graves told Otani it was, however, his desire to cooperate in every way possible with the Japanese and that he felt assured they could accomplish the same objective because Grave felt the desires of the Japanese Government and the American Government were the same. “I also told him,” Grave wrote, “that in view of the limitations placed upon me as to the use of American troops I must insist upon being informed where troops were to be transferred and for what purpose before they were moved.”[i]
Graves also verbally told Colonel Styer, who had preceded him in command in Siberia, as to those limitations and requested him to act accordingly. “The Japanese Headquarters apparently thoroughly understood the situation and there has been no friction and conflict in the operations here.”[ii]
Later that first day problems were forgotten in one great social event arranged by General Otani. After the officers dressed for the occasion cars awaited their pleasure to take them to the affair. High ranking officers of all nations were on hand. One American said his head was whirling with the realization of how many really important military men from a great variety of countries were there shaking hands, bowing, eating and drinking with each other.
The food was spread out on tables as if there was no such thing as famine, as though there were no hungry peasants. It seemed ironic to some that the monarchy had been overthrown for just such dining and drinking while the peasants had cried for bread. Yet in Vladivostok the Allied officials were that night emulating such festivities while the peasants were starving in the hills. It did not set well with some of our men. It was too much like Moscow again with its banquet tables, high dress, drinks and social intercourse. One man wondered if a bread riot might not follow and had to admit he would not much blame the peasants if they broke down the doors in protest. But nothing happened. The affair was carried off with finesse as the military greats drank vodka and champagne and ate the finest of caviar and other delicacies. It was probably just as well that the hungry American soldiers who had been marching back and forth through the town knew nothing of that gala affair.
The day after arrival was a warm pleasant one. The officers were beginning to wonder just where they would live. “We will probably live in Headquarters,” Eichelberger wrote, as he sat in his pajamas in a stateroom on the THOMAS that early September morning.
He ( ???? check book illegible ) ything less beautiful. He wrote in his office in town that he was in “a house of cockroaches. They are here ( ???? check book illegible )y the million.” However, their own rooms were fairly clean and he told his wife he managed to draw a mattress and also to get a spring cot “like the one at Camp Fremont.”
While some of the men were seeing the cockroaches, Graves was busy with communiques that were piling up on his desk. He began to realize the complexities of the problems that were to face him in the days ahead. Not only was Russia in a chaotic state but the aims of some of the allies were questionable. The Commanding General was keen enough to foresee problems with the aggressive Japanese. On the diplomatic front he had to concern himself with General Alfred Knox of the British army who had no use for Russian peasants. Graves disagreed violently with Knox’s opinion and did not appreciate the latter’s determined effort to set up a reactionary regime in Siberia by building up the image of Kolchak, a former Admiral of the White Russian fleet.
As the days passed Graves was cognizant of the fact that most of the Allies who were ready and willing to fight the Bolsheviks had anticipated that the Americans would join the Allies. It was impossible for Graves to carry out the President’s wishes and cooperate with such aims. Furthermore, Graves was not amendable to making Kolchak the Supreme Commander of the White Russians, in spite of the wishes of the other Allies. Washington itself had given its nod of approval to this matter. Our General knew that Kolchak’s henchmen were raiding villages to impress men into the Kolchak army. He abhorred the tactics they used and felt that Washington was not apprised of the situation as it existed. If a village did not cooperate, the leaders of a town would be hauled off to be whipped or shot. Worse still, they were sometimes dipped into frigid waters until they became human icicles. Such reports worried Graves who stated, “I have often thought that it was unfortunate I did not know more of the conditions in Siberia than I did when I was pitchforked into the melee at Vladivostok. At other times I have thought that ignorance was not only bliss in such a situation but was advisable.”[iii]
Regarding the piled supplies which could be seen everywhere near the wharf, Graves did not need any communique. A panorama
spread before him or arms and ammunition lying around on wharfs or sidings or on vacant lots. Some material was in crates, some unprotected, some covered with huge canvas tarpaulins. Cotton was found thrown on the ground with no covering and nothing beneath it to protect it from dampness. Piles of rubber, so desperately needed by the Allies, were in evidence. There were automobiles that had never been uncrated. If this lifeline of supplies fell into the hands of enemy factions it would be disastrous. Guards were detailed to safeguard the supplies.
Then thee was the problem of the Czecho-Slovaks. By a strange twist of fate these men who the Americans had come to help were now fighting their own battles admirably.
“I was being disillusioned very fast,” Graves said. He reread his orders again and again and throughout his service in Siberia he refused to be forced by political or military groups to aide with one faction against the other. It seemed as though there was nothing left for our troops to do but carry out the part of the instructions relating to the guarding of military stores which might subsequently be needed by Russian forces.
However, the term “Russian forces” had to be defined before any steps could be taken to render aid referred to in the policy. In his book Graves wrote that the decision could not be made in Washington. Conditions were such in Siberia that one could not render any assistance to a Russian without discarding the policy of non-intervention in internal affairs. The General stated: “I could not give a Russian a shirt without being subject to trying to help the side to which the recipient of the shirt belonged.”
In addition to attempting to determine which of the Russians constituted ‘Russian forces,’ Graves also wondered about which element should be considered ‘the enemy.’
Throughout the intervention Graves’ neutral position represented views of the Chief of Staff, Secretary of War and the President himself. At first it was also the view of the State Department. Later, however, the War and State Departments differed. This added to Graves’ concern.
As though the situation in Russia itself was not enough to give any man a migraine, Graves was faced with the question of barracks and storage facilities for his American men. Satisfying the question of which army would occupy which barracks was a task of great magnitude, especially as those representatives of those nations having the fewest troops were often the hardest to satisfy.”[iv]
The General stated: “It was an almost impossible task to convince the Japanese or Chinese or Italian forces that on account of our sanitary regulations we can only put 150 men into a building. . .(one) into which they would put 300-500. They would not admit that our soldiers were deserving of any more consideration than their own.”[v]
Such questions had to be handled with tact and diplomacy.
As though there were not enough problems at hand, General Otani asked each of the Allies to designate officers to sit on nine different committees: Material, Barracks and Quarters, Finance, POW, Inter-Allied Railway, Sanitary and Tariff and Marital Law. This would take more time. In addition, Allied representatives were at first scheduled to meet twice a week, then once a week to discuss matters of common interest. No committee decision was final, but when policies were not violated the majority opinion was usually adopted.[vi]
Later General Graves was to report: “. . .Personal and official relations with Japanese Headquarters have left nothing to be desired except that the Japanese have simply been following a different policy. They have resorted to bribery and trickery in every way. The Japanese Chief of Staff has stated that they have already spent one hundred million yen in Siberia on their army. They spend money in a way and follow methods that Americans cannot and must not follow. However, condemn these methods as much as we do, the fact remains that conditions are such here and the Russian people are such, that. . .I doubt very much whether it is possible for us in the face of such obstacles to realize the American ideals of honesty, liberty and justice in Siberia for years and years to come.”[vii]

The doughboys were not as busy as was General Graves and his staff upon arrival, but they were eager to get off the transport and into town for a firsthand look at the city itself.
First, however, they were required to eat breakfast on board. Then they received permission to debark.
Food on the transports was cooked in copper kettles by steam. Under ordinary circumstances the kettles were emptied after each meal, and scalding steam was used to cleanse them thoroughly. In this way, they were completely sterilized before the next meal. This method of cooking aboard army transports has long since been abandoned, but in September, 1918, that was the method used.
When the men received their dinner Labor Day night in 1918, they knew they would be eating their breakfast on the transport as well. The cooks also knew this. Henry Fry reports, “Those damn cooks must have had it figured out in advance that if they cooked more slum for dinner than the men could eat there would be some left over for breakfast. So they did just that, and then, not being military, they were permitted to go to town. Thus, when the slum cooled, and remember it had been sitting in those copper kettles all night, it was just reheated and served again. The effect was ptomaine poisoning.”[viii]
The result of that morning meal was catastrophic. After seventeen days on the water nearly every man was sick upon arrival. It has been reported that anywhere from 250 to 1,700 men were stricken a few hours after the meal was served. A survey showed that the men were indeed in the throes of ptomaine.
Stephen Chadwick records that they had no medical men assigned to them. That in itself was disastrous. Chadwick communicated with headquarters immediately, explaining the gravity of the situation, and requested that id be sent on the double.
An officer present at headquarters confided to Chadwick later that the Expedition Surgeon passed the petition for aid off with the remark that some of the men had doubtless had too much vodka. No assistance arrived.
At five o’clock most of the doughboys were too sick to leave their beds. Chadwick called again. An hour later a hospital corpsman with a bag of medicine appeared. He was unable to cope with the situation which existed. So Chadwick and a few others organized the well men into a sort of hospital corps and assisted, as far as they could, those unable to take care of themselves.
“At seven o’clock,” he recalls, “to my great relief, two young doctors drifted in. Seeing the situation and fully appreciating it, they immediately raided the so called Base Hospital and returned with two bottles of CC pills and one bottle of castor oil. The latter was said to be the only bottle with the expedition! The pills were given to those able to walk, the oil was soon exhausted on those unable to leave their beds,” Chadwick reports, and adds, “To those two doctors, Lieutenants Ehlers and Baronodisk, the men of the transport owe a real debt, for with me they waited and worked throughout the night. I hope the Expedition Surgeon slept soundly.”
Other men recalled that some of the sick were put in a field hospital which was set up in Russian quarters. “The doctors and pill rollers gave each of us either salts or castor oil to try to ease the onslaught of the pain,” said one man.

In time most of the men managed to overcome the ptomaine onslaught and began to look around them. Many were surprised to see that Siberia was not vastly different from the States. The climate was about the same and the people were similar to people one might meet anywhere in a cosmopolitan city except that most of the inhabitants were wretchedly clothed. But, all in all, it did not seem nearly as bad as it had sounded back home. There were troops from many countries and prisoners of war everywhere. Before them lay a beautiful harbor sight. A Japanese fleet with banners flying, the British KENT (a destroyer), and the American cruiser BROOKLYN were in full view. There were also two obsolete Russian destroyers.
But that first day it rained and rained. It was only a drizzling rain but the kind that soaks into a man’s body. Those that had been sick with ptomaine were weak and disgusted. Drizzling rain can knock a weak soldier out. Nevertheless, the AEFers had been ordered to get out with full packs and fall in. After that it was a repetition of orders to fall in and to fall out so many times that the men were worn to a frazzle before they finally received their marching orders. With full packs they were paraded from what was later known as American Base, through Vladivostok, all the way to the far end of Svetlanskaya Street.
To this day the men do not know the purpose of that tram, tramp, tramp. One said it was mismanagement from the top. Another said that “the Brass wanted to make a show to the natives.” But most of the men concluded that they looked too awful to be making any kind of a good impression.
“In all my years of service, sometimes marching all day, I have never suffered so much,” said Fry. “My shoulder straps from my pack cut into my shoulders. Our morale was not improved by seeing out buddies along the side of the street. I think our detachment must have lost about fifty percent of its effectiveness that day.” The “buddies along the street” were the men who had fallen out. After some two hours in the rain those who were able were still marching and the weaker ones simply gave up. Every half block or so another doughboy would just stop and sit down on the side of the road.
They saw by the bewilderment of the officers that they were without any forceful leadership. Graves had not had time to take command of the situation and apparently no arrangements had been made before their arrival. It is that sort of realization that makes for demoralization. The men were cursing and weeping at the same time. They were so hopelessly disordered and dismayed and without any guidance that it was a shock to their sense of discipline. The rain continued its incessant drizzling, but it did not help to wash away the annoyance each man felt.
When some of the men first arrived they cleaned off areas on the floor, spread their blankets and went to sleep. One man says he will never forget that first night. “In this building there was a poor starving family, they had no home, no nothing, and all their worldly possessions were the rags on their backs. They began to make signs indicating that they wanted food. We had nothing to give them as our mess set-up was in another place and we had had our supper. As we had to have a space to sleep our Lieutenant in command had to run those poor people out so that we could clear a spot to bed down on the floor. Of course it was raining, cold rain, as this was early in September and it was already getting chilly at night.[ix]
After the men became organized and got the buildings cleaned, new doors and windows were installed. Cots were issued, and mattress covers which they filled with straw.
Some of the men bought sheets from a Russian woman and managed to get extra blankets to make themselves fairly comfortable.
Henry Fry said his sleeping accommodations were subsequently not too bad as the Russian army bakeries were pretty well set up and sleeping quarters were provided for, according to the number of bakers they had. The higher ranking non-commissioned officers had small sleeping rooms. The officers’ quarters were habitable after they were cleaned. The soldiers were thankful that they had arrived in moderately cold weather rather than in the freezing weather of winter. “If we had arrived in Siberia two months later than we did, I doubt if we ever could have made it. When I think back of what we did have to go through I know we couldn’t have made it if it had been better cold.”[x]
One man recalled that when he arrived his group had been taken to a low field and told to pitch pup tents. “We had two blankets and thin clothing, he said, “and we about froze the night for we had been in the Philippine Islands where it was hot. A lot of the boys caught cold and some even died of exposure so we were pretty disgusted.”[xi]
Another man also recalls that camp. He reports, “all of the 31st Infantry was located in pyramidal wall tents until about the end of September. The days were quite comfortable but the nights were very cold. At least it seemed cold to us who had come from the Philippine Islands with only khaki uniforms and very thin underwear. As a result about fifty percent of the men in the regiment became ill with colds or flu. We had small cone type stoves in each tent. There were eight men to a tent. At night we would each take a one hour shift to keep the stove hot because we lacked sufficient blankets or heavy clothing to keep warm. We had to stay in those tents to give the laborers time to clean and repair the barracks we were to occupy. You just would not believe the tons of dirt, excrement and dead flies that were taken out of each of these barracks before we were able to occupy them in late September.”[xii]
Some of the troops had taken over one of the Baldwin Locomotive sheds upon arrival. They remained for a day, having mess on the transport. Then they were informed that messing from the transport had to end. These men were equipped as casuals, without kitchen equipment, so feeding became quite a problem. Beef was issued in half and other rations in similar proportions. The men took the only way out. They raided the Quartermaster Warehouse for sufficient supplies to feed themselves. Altogether, there were 1,250 men, formerly of the Eighth, quartered in the Baldwin sheds. They were located about three miles out from the center of the city, and from expedition headquarters.[xiii]
Joe Longuevan was lucky when he joined Company C, 31st; it was already comfortably ensconced in the brick barracks on the Churkin-Dio [1] Joseph B. Longuevan, Co. C, 31st Inf.
[i]Grave’s book
[ii]Gen. Graves’ official report #2 dated 6/30/19, WDNA
[iii]Graves’ book
re[prt dated 6/30/19, WDNA
[v]Graves’ Final Report, WDNA
[vi]Graves’ Final Report, WDNA
[vii]Graves’ Report, September 25, 1919 to Adjutant General of the Army, WDNA
[viii]Henry C. Fry, Quartermaster Corps.
[ix]Henry C. Fry
[x]Henry C. Fry
[xi]Alphia Wilber Goreham, Co. D, 31st Inf.
[xii]Lester William Reed, Co. K, 31st Inf.
[xiii]Stephen F. Chadwick, Lt. Co. D, 27th Inf., 1st Bn. Adjutant, Regimental Personnel Adjutant

The SIberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 20

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The SIberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 20

The 90-mile March

At the concentration point, Sviyagino, Colonel Morrow was busy preparing to move the troops to Ussuri. He was in command of the march which started on August 30, 1918.
The 90-mile trip north on foot proved to be one of the hardest experiences the men had while stationed in Siberia. From daylight to dark, with only two meals a day, they trudged on over hills, through sparse and deep woods, across marshes and swamps, and an interminable series of hills and dales. Tortuous walking was the pattern along with shoving and pushing mules and wagons most of the time. Before resting at night latrines had to be dug; the pup tents that had to be put up were so old that they leaked in the slightest rainfall. Often the men slept in slimy, muddy water. But before the rains fell, the sun had to be contended with. The day on which the march started it was wickedly hot.
The summer heat had left the road dry and dusty. The Americans had endured drills back in Manila where the sun often made breathing difficult. Their experience in Siberia was not too different. The beautiful harvest lands on either side of the road were dubbed the Manila rice paddies. Filipino songs were sung to keep spirits up.
The so-called roads consisted of ground between two ditches bridging the swamps. On many occasions straw from the wagons had to be used to fill in ruts. It was no simple matter to march, heave hay and push mules and wagons along while suffering from parched throats, dysentery and hunger. Canteens were emptied all too often.
The regiment had started out with baggage and ration wagons, ambulances and with native guides to show them the best route parallel to the railway. Unfortunately, when the guides found themselves lost they became frightened and simply disappeared. These strange new Americans with weird horses (mules) frightened the natives who feared punishment for getting lost. As the soldiers plowed on the sun climbed higher, aggravating their thirst, hunger and discouragement.
While there was beauty on either side of the road, the men were too exhausted to appreciate any of it.
In one area a strange, terribly nauseating odor assaulted the men and choked them beyond the heat alone. It was as though some awful gas engulfed them as they marched along. When a halt was finally called, the men dropped, inert against clumps of bushes by the side of the road. While “chow” looked good, some of the men decided to investigate the cause of the stench which seemed to emanate from beyond the bushes.
Suddenly the air was filled with oaths of profanity. There before them say heaps of dead bodies with mounds of cartridges everywhere. Later it was learned that a battle had taken place there between the Japanese and the Bolsheviks. The dreadful slaughter was the evidence.
Men stood stunned. Many regurgitated with abandon into the bushes, while unable to take their eyes off the sight. Unburied bodies with flesh burning in the hot midday sun were covered with swarms of large black flies. Other bodies, apparently killed more recently, still oozed blood. The sight sickened the very staunchest.
Most of the soldiers were already suffering from dysentery. The sight made their plight pitiable. Soon they turned their heads in an effort to avoid the sight and smell. They failed to notice the profusion of wild flowers amidst the carnage.
The Americans had been following on foot a Japanese armored train which was pursuing a trainload of Bolsheviks. The Japanese had thrown an artillery shell ahead of the Bolshevik train and had also torn up a bridge to trap it. The Bolsheviks were thus scattering across the countryside with the Japanese in hot pursuit. The latter had killed several hundred in one area and left the results that had so shocked the Americans.
As the doughboys wiped the sweat from their brows and from their hands they weakly made their way back; some hoped that what they had witnessed would somehow be obliterated from their memories. That was most unlikely to be the case.
Hungry as they had been, those who had not eaten could not do so; those who had lost everything with one great and awful spasm.
Most of the raw recruits came from sheltered American homes. They had been brought up to respect life and to love their neighbors; they had also been trained to observe good sportsmanship. Yet they did know that war was a dreadful thing and during war man murdered man, something the so-called lower animals never stoop to – kill their own kind in group battle. Nevertheless, to come upon that battlefield so unexpectedly in a field of God’s good earth with oats, wheat and flowers was too much. Some men wept openly.
One genteel young soldier from Georgia was literally shocked into insensibility. He was removed to an ambulance at once and eventually had to be sent back to the States.[i]
When men had regained some semblance of composure, their voices came in whispers. In that mangled pile of bloated corpses, lying in a mush of bone and flesh, men felt that what they had come to regard as civilization must have died there. There had been dead men on top of horses, dead horses on top of men, and flies thick and black everywhere.
“I can still smell the stench and see the sight when I think of it today over half a century later. It was appalling, dreadful and unbelievable.”[ii]
Eager to march again to get away from that battle field, the men fell into position. Many thoughts, however, dwelt on that spot.
The men noted that the boots of many corpses had been removed. “It must have
been dreadful to move amongst that slaughter to get much needed boots,” Nick Hochee commented. “I guess they must have needed those boots pretty bad to have been able to creep out there on that field with those horrible bodies and parts of bodies, and empty shells all about, to pull boots from those terrible inert legs.”
As the march proceeded, more and m ore men began to fall out. The older men found the grind the hardest. The ambulances were making their way back to Sviyangino with the dropouts.
The officers marched with the men and gained great respect for this. They permitted a few of the weaker to ride on the advanced ambulances for short lengths in order to give them a chance to regain their strength. Some were permitted to put heavy packs on the wagons which the mules were supposed to be hauling but which, oftener than not, were pulled by other men.
The soldiers marched in a column of twos. They covered a remarkable number of tortured miles by the time the heat forced them to rest again. Flesh had become puffy over shoe tops. It was a distinct effort simply to erect flimsy canopy tents that evening.
On the route the men sweated it out in throbbing discomfort, mouths agape revealing enlarged, dust-covered tongues. When pebbles were found, such were placed in the mouth the stimulate the flow of saliva. While the doughboys were slowly becoming veterans, their morale was at a low ebb; because of weakness, they found it difficult even to remain erect. And this was but the first day of many before they would reach Ussuri.
Some of the Americans envisioned the cool ponds and murmuring brooks of “home”. Some thought of the water they had wasted in their short lives. No one realized that such thoughts had filled the minds of soldiers for ages past — and ages yet to come.
Cliff Strohm, a mechanic with A Company, had joined the army when he became hungry back in California. He was born and raised in Cleveland. At the age of thirteen he began to work part time in a print shop. He liked it so well that lithography became his profession for life. However, in July 1916 he decided to see the west and made his way to California. He rode freight trains and stopped off whenever funds were needed. He worked on farms and in restaurants for a few dollars which would carry him to the next stopping point.
In San Francisco there were no jobs available. Strohm was in a quandary; he decided to enlist in the army in order to have steady room and board. Subsequently he saw service in the Philippines from whence he left for Siberia. As a company mechanic he was soft for he had been excused from all drills and hikes in the Philippines in order to perform his mechanical chores. He had been kept busy repairing rifles and equipment and in assisting the supply sergeant in making, painting and loading shipping cases for the next move.
Strohm remarked: “Can you imagine excusing a soldier from drills and marches and then sending him on that terrible hike to Ussuri?”
In addition to being unfamiliar with hiking, Strohm had to carry an awkward range finder which bruised his legs and body. His equipment weighed 90 pounds!
On the first day of the hike to Ussuri he dreamed of a soft cot at eventide and of soft green grass. But, he stated that when they stopped he was chosen for latrine detail and was put to work digging trenches and making cover.[iii]
This sort of duty had to be performed on every day of the hike, rain or shine. When the pup tents were pitched the men would peel off their shoes, bate their feet if there was water available and bandage blisters. Foot inspection had become a nightly ritual. For some of the men, the light shoes had lasted for only a part of the first day. It was difficult to say whether the marchers wanted most to sleep, eat or drink. In any case, they were happy when the old corned beef, hardtack and coffee was doled out at night.[iv]
On the first night Asa Williams found himself on guard duty. The cook had forgotten him after feeding the other men. “That was one of the real sad experiences of my whole life — to miss supper that first day,” the soldier recalled.
Williams also recalled that he had drunk rain water from cow tracks. At the time, the Japanese had been drinking from cattle tracks so he decided to do the same thing. If it didn’t hurt them, why should it hurt him? Then Williams learned that the Japanese also ate dogs. He and three or four other doughboys thought that dog meat might be pretty good eating “so the other guys and I tried some but I didn’t like the taste as I didn’t eat much, although I was awfully hungry.”
Williams reported that he had been sick most of the time but kept going for to stop might have been disastrous. Some of the other men wondered if his water-drinking habits might not have caused his illness. Lawrence Nygard recalled an occasion on which Williams lay down in desperation on the road and again drank forbidden water. An officer who had spotted him, to get up at once. “Don’t you know that that water could be polluted and could kill you?”
“But sir, if I don’t drink it that’s going to kill me too.” Williams replied meekly. The officer shrugged and walked off.
A few yards beyond, the men found three dead Russian bodies by the side of the road. The water the Americans had been drinking was flowing past the cadavers. Williams stared; he felt sick at the sight and was sure that he would die there in that rutted road in Siberia.
On the march that first day the men had had plenty of time to digest the rumors that had arisen. When had the Japanese gone ahead in boxcars and left them to walk?
When the Americans had received word that the bridges ahead were out and that they would have to continue on foot they never foresaw what lay ahead. At that time the rest of the Japanese troops had been ordered to remain at Sviyagino until the damaged bridges were repaired. The curses that arose regarding the Japanese were halted when the Americans had to be reminded that these were our allies. A few horselaughs ensued.
“Allies, eh,” remarked a doughboy, “I’ll bet they will give us more trouble than the Russians before we are through.” His words were prophetic of events to come.[v]
At the time it was enough to know that the Japanese intended to wait at the siding for repairs and that the American ammunition and official cars had been taken over by the Japanese while the doughboys had to march in the blazing sun or the rain. Rage was felt by the Americans; they determined to beat the Japanese to their destination. In the spirit of competition, the men faced the challenge, not knowing that August 30, 1918 was to be just a beginning.
The doughboys soon felt thirst and dehydration as the day wore on. Adding to their misery, it was found that many of the men found themselves unable to urinate and, if at all, to find great pain and difficulty doing so.
The official report of the first day’s march stated that the roads were “excellent”.[vi] The doughboys had a different version.
The troops reached Nikitovka at 3:30 pm. They had covered but 13 miles, yet to many the march had become unendurable. Blister, infections and thin shoes used in the tropics had taken their toll. Sore muscles, dysentery and numerous bodily ailments were part of the misery.
Although the Yanks were glad to reach any site that indicated the possible end of the day’s journey, it was not long before they were ordered to the Monastery, another six miles to the east. Fortunately, the road was now good and a campsite awaited them supplied with water and wood.
The camp was made close to a small creek. However, the parched soldiers were forbidden to drink there until the water had been boiled and cooled. They watched with envy as the mules were permitted to drink from the creek.
By reveille on August 31, 1918, it was raining heavily. This overjoyed the men; but the rain was to last for three days and cause more agonies for all.
Breakfast of leftover hash, hardtack and coffee was eaten in the cold rain at Nikitovka. At 7 am the men were placed in a column of ours to continue.
As they marched along, the odor of the dead followed them. In one creek they saw a dead man and a dead horse. At another point a good deal of excitement resulted when it was found that a corporal was missing. After a search, the man was finally located.
In some locations the soldiers had to construct a corduroy road; then a bridge had to be strengthened to allow passage of the wagons and mules.
By the second day the Americans realized that the light two-wheeled carts of the Japanese were superior in this country to the heavy wagons of the A.E.F.[vii]
As the march progressed, the pace began to slow up. Many began to limp; some dropped out from sheer exhaustion. As the combat wagons were already overloaded, only a few lucky ones were able to hitch a ride. This practice was soon halted.
As the men became numbly accustomed to exhaustion, the stench of decaying bodies also did not disturb them as at first. They were learning the lessons. A mounted officer of the Japanese infantry had an orderly he needed run alongside on foot.
The Americans also learned much about the significance of rain. No one could climb in the muck that resulted. The unbearable dust clouds had turned to a sea of mud. In the marshy areas the wagons became so mired that the animals were no longer able to move in them. With the aid of manpower, supplies were finally jettisoned. The entire 27th carried hay, gathered on the way, to be used to build roads through the swamps.
Don Pequignot recalled that he could not but smile when he had seen the poor mules in those swamps. The animals had flaps placed over them. “They kicked so much mud over the flaps and over the whole rear clear to the waist that we couldn’t have got a gun out if it had been necessary. We had to wash both the mules and the guns.”
At each small village the officers had hoped to get food. They had arranged a system. As the Americans noted a few houses in a wide spot in the road, a Russian-speaking soldier would go ahead and start to talk loudly. In every case the village would seem deserted. In a loud, clear voice he would state: “We are Americans who have come from the other side of the world to help you. But now we are hungry. We will buy black break or cabbages or whatever you may have.” Over and over he would repeat his call. At one place a man came out timidly and said “You couldn’t come from the other side of the world, you would fall off.” The Americans had the good grace not to laugh. Instead, the man was told how they had travelled on a huge boat over great waters that separated their countries. They asked him the help them as friends.
The man listened intently. He asked more and more questions. Soon a few more people ventured forth and the soldier managed to buy a few staples. They again heard that the Japanese had preceded them and had taken all they could find.
“We are afraid of strangers,” the natives said. “The Japanese pretended to by our friends but they and the Bolsheviks took what they wanted and left nothing in return. Some of the raped and killed our women.”
As confidences grew, the villagers offered some food and took candy bars and other items in exchange. American money was of no use to the Russians.
As the men continued splashing through the rain, keeping their heads bowed to offset the sweeping gusts, they dwelled on their plight. And they had only just landed in this strange land. They had become plastered with mud; their feet had become grotesquely enlarged by the cloying stuff. Sometimes the ooze showed traces of blood.
Jesse Sheppard had been among the fortunate few who had not seen the battlefield the previous day. He reported: “On the evening of the second night I saw my first dead soldier killed in a skirmish. We had arrived in some little town and had managed to get some water to wash up with.
“It was there we met a British soldier from a Middlesex regiment who told us of the skirmish. He also spoke of the huge mosquitoes. I know he was not exaggerating as we had the same experience with the monsters. That night we were given a speech about not being taken prisoner. We fixed our bayonets to do some fighting but it didn’t come. The soldier I saw who was killed was a Russian. He had been felled by a skirmish party a short distance ahead and was left there all alone. I don’t even know if they ever buried him.”
When darkness descended, the woods took on the usual ominous appearance. No one knew where Bolsheviks might be lurking. It was a time for rumors in the ranks; and, as always, rumors were based upon ignorance of what lay ahead. The doughboys knew that a Bolshevik might be concealed in any house, haystack or tree. The wolf cries at night did not help to ease cases of taut nerves.
Accurate maps were not available. But then the men did not care too much about locations; they looked forward to reaching the next stop for rest. However, in spite of swollen feet, fatigue and dysentery, the hike continued.
Only eight miles were covered on the second day, chiefly through swampy terrain. Along the way logs and brush had been used to get the wagons over ruts and swamps. It was 7 pm when the column reached a passable camp site. It was 10 pm before chow was over. It had taken twelve long hours to make a mere eight miles. There had been no lunch. Again, foot ailments were most prevalent.
As the night wore on, pools of water formed everywhere. Men huddled in groups to keep as warm and dry as possible. They were exhausted and certainly looked a very sad army. The old pup tents leaked and mud oozed up to meet the drips from the canvas. The doughboys realized that after daylight they would again have to go on – over the apparently endless hills, woods and swamps. They knew that they were getting the best that could be offered under the circumstances. One man who was weakened by dysentery managed to get to the front rank amid the cheers of his buddies.
After a 6 am breakfast of sodden hardtack and rain-diluted coffee, the men prepared for the third day. As the troops were about to leave, an old Russian appeared, and, with a big grin, offered the men a large pan of tomatoes. He asked for no pay. Colonel Morrow uttered some profanity and kicked the pan out of the old man’s hands. He believed the tomatoes to be poisoned or they would not have been offered so freely.
It was 7:15 am on September 1st when the Americans left Renovka that third day of march.
Crossing a marsh some three miles wide, wagons again became mired. They were pulled along by means of ropes and manpower.
“Wonder if we will get out of these stinking marshes when we reach those hills,” mused one doughboy. Another replied disconsolately: “Maybe the climbing will be worse.”
As the men marched on, their shoes squished mud with weird, gurgling sounds. One soldier after shaking a mass of muddy slime from his feet, laughed sardonically. “When I think how I used to cuss a dry spell down on the farm. . .” Some of his buddies understood.
The ten-minute rest period during each hour was eagerly awaited. The doughboys would sit in a ditch with their packs against the berm of the roadside, wipe their filthy, unshaven faces and swat at the huge swamp mosquitoes. Tired, hungry and disgruntled, they cussed the world in general and Russia in particular.
The wagons streamed with water; mules and men dripped and stank. Besides, man and beast shivered in the cold wind blowing with cold rain. There were two thoughts paramount; the march would end and no matter how hot it might get, the sun would surely shine again.
Making headway was a slow process always. Trees had to be cut to build the ever necessary corduroy roads to carry the field pieces and the combat wagons. Much equipment was damaged or broken; much was simply left behind to lighten the loads. A supply company had its wagons and a hospital company and an ambulance. Each company had its own company equipment. The men had to carry their own personal effects.
It had become accepted that the march would be a dawn-to-dusk assignment. Shoes had so disintegrated that progress had been seriously hampered. For many men it was an effort to keep up; to be left behind might prove disastrous.
Frequently the mules had to be unhitched and their places taken by the exhausted soldiers who had to pull the wagons out of the mud. Finally, the troops had to abandon the “road” to set out for terrain that would lead them to a railway.
The soldiers marched on with haunting memories of that first stench-laden battlefield. Most little villages were ghost towns, silent, empty, dead. As a village was encountered, the men would call out hopefully. Always now, silence.
Morale of the troops was not of the highest. Two mules literally walked themselves to death. Men continued to grow weaker and increasingly discouraged. When the sun had blazed down on the first day the men had bitched. Now in the rain, the picture had changed, and for the worse. Many a man recalled his raincoat hanging on the kitchen door at home; then there was the old fireplace where he could warm himself after his work outdoors.
The “road” showed the ravages of war. Left and right lay the bodies of fallen soldiers. Often at night the Americans were forced to bury bodies to find an area to pitch their tents. It was not a pleasant task for men who had spent a day hiking on that terrible terrain.
The machine gun company had nearly reached the limit of its tolerance. One man stumbled into a bee hive. As the swarm assailed him a few laughs were heard. Another good target for the bees was Tony Klepatska, the Russian interpreter. Stumbling and waving his arms, he struck out in all directions. When he attempted to cast off his pack he became entangled and became a helpless victim. Elmer Moe and another man went to help him. For their consideration, the received the attention of the bees too. Tony was finally extricated. The bees were undaunted. They began to attack the mules who kicked and bellowed and sought relief in flight. Some of the mules were loaded with kitchen equipment. Moe told it this way: “The mules started down the road, kicking in every direction. The men opened up a line of each side with almost precision force to make way; if they had not they would have been trampled upon. The mules forged on clanking the equipment and strewing it as they went everywhere. It was a sight I shall never forget.”
There was further excitement when a German sympathizer started to sound off. Although he was now a soldier in the United States Army, he could not resist expressing his thoughts. Eventually he was court-martialed and sentenced to hard labor. but perhaps this was better than marching through Russian swamps!
When it came time to line up the pup tents the doughboys found that, even with the use of bayonets, the terrain prevented maintaining any alignment. Not to be defeated, they scooped out shallow trenches around the perimeters of the tents. This improved the drainage.
Once the tents were pitched, chores done and chow over, the men felt better. Since there was no means of relieving tensions, the men lay down and attempted to sleep on the deeply scored ground. The city men suffered most.
“We had marched along like wet dish rags,” said Don Pequignot. “We rolled blankets tight on our backs and trudged on. I cut my shoe on a broken glass bottle. That night I found a pair of shoes in the potatoes. They belonged to Colonel Miller. Although they fit me perfectly I figured I should return them to the Colonel. I nearly fainted when he told me to keep them.”
The men used twigs and branches in an attempt to make a fire; this was not a success at all. By 10 pm there was the usual drizzle and the leaking tents.
At 2:20 pm that third day the Americans had reached their next stopping point, Uspanka. They had covered but ten miles. In spite of the early hour, a halt had been called much to the relief of the men. They considered the site “a hell of a place for a camp” but were glad that the day’s tramping was over. Event he brief official report termed the roads “very poor (swamps).”
That night some of the soldiers began pacing back and forth; they felt like trapped animals with unfilled stomachs and wet bodies.
As the doughboys arose to reveille at 6 am on September 2, 1918, a light rain was still falling at Uspenka. They had the usual breakfast before they headed out due west for the railroad. They broke camp at 7:15 am and marched toward a town called Ordejevka. During the day they passed through wild grass and some buckwheat fields. The rain had let up for which there was much gratefulness.
According to some reports the Americans reached Ordejevka at 11:30 am; others stated that it was at 1:30 pm. They had marched another ten miles. The spot was a good mile or two from any wood or water.
At this time Morrow wired Headquarters at Vladivostok that the march was proceeding according to schedule. He expected to reach Ussuri at 10 am on September 4th. Rations were getting scanty. The Yanks hated the hardtack which was full of weevils by now. Perhaps they had forgotten the stories of their grandfathers who fought in the Civil War. Emory Todd had this comment to make: “We would knock the hardtack until almost all of the weevils were out and then dump the hardtack in the coffee quick. It was the only way some men could take it or they would starve.” Todd also recalled: “Our feet were inspected by the medic as there was no doctor. Blisters were taped up. I was one of the lucky few who didn’t get blisters. However, my feet were suffering something dreadful. I had a lot of dysentery too but managed to be in the front rank when we finished the hike. The older men suffered the most. We carried our rifle and bayonet and each of us had 100 rounds of ammunition and an emergency pack of hardtack, bacon and coffee.”
Lawrence Nygard related one of his experiences on the hike. He had enlisted in 1915 and served in Texas City before he was sent to Vladivostok and found himself on the unforgettable 90-mile march.
One day on the march, to lighten his load, he placed some gear on a wagon. As he was hungry, he looked about and spied a pack of emergency rations. “I swiped it,” he related, “and devoured the entire contents in a few gulps — hardtack and bacon. When I think of it today, I still get indigestion.”
By nighttime Nygard was again hungry so he went for his own rations. They were gone! “I guess someone else got hungry too. Anyway, God punished me. I got nothing but coffee that night.”
Sometimes appetites were forgotten. Nick Hochee told of the time they stopped to eat. Again another heap of bodies was discovered. This time the corpses were piled like cordwood upon a new battlefield.
The state of the roads, the weather, the food and other incidentals seemed to have become blurred in the memories of many of the men who were on that hike. There was some recollection that near the end of the hike the Americans were able to buy some chickens, field corn and potatoes. This was an unforgettable event. One morning oat mush and sugar, without mile, seemed like a banquet.
The men who were most unprepared for the hike, and so fearful of being left behind, came marching in a sort of coma. During the last leg of the march they passed yet another battlefield. Here were trenches with dead Russians who had been killed by the Japanese. The fact that the bodies for some reason had been stacked more neatly, made the sight no less revolting.
One doughboy observed that, while the natives along he route were suspicious of the Americans, their attitude changed after they found the soldiers most friendly. “When the Americans first arrived the natives threw up their hands. ‘This is the end,’ they said. ‘Now we will have nothing left.’ But an officer approached a farmer regarding some newly mowed hay for the men to make their beds on. He produced a roll of money from his money belt to pay for it. The farmer was stunned. It was soon learned that, although the money could not buy them anything, the Americans were willing to purchase or trade. At least they were not taking everything from the people. . .”[viii]
One report indicated that camp was made at a spot two miles beyond a monastery but said nothing about a river. Another mentioned that they camped at the bank of the Ussuri, on open ground, and were glad to have left the marshlands behind. The wild grass was knee-deep and the terrain had become hilly en route. Everyone seemed happy and, as the weather was warm, most of the men went swimming. This was not only a good form of recreation but offered a means of removing the accumulated muck of the march.
Some men had been sent ahead to forage for food. Food was waiting for the troops at their destination. The quantity was not great, but the fare consisted of beef, potatoes and cabbage. The mule teams had very little to eat.
Reports indicated that small bridges had been repaired, trestles were in order and all trains were now running.
Along the route, when the men managed to speak through an interpreter to the least fearful of the Russian natives, the Americans were astonished to learn that much of the natives’ fears of the Americans arose from the fact that they were white skinned and had light hair. A negro American, who had lived in Siberia had spread the rumor that all the Americans were dark skinned as he was. The natives began to wonder where the white men really came from.
At times in the evenings when fires were built, a few natives would wander in and gather around to hear the doughboys sing American songs. These Russians listened and laughed in their subdued, grave manner.
The Americans were always happy to find people in a village. Often they had heard that the Japanese had shelled village churches and frightened the natives away. One monastery had been shelled to ruins because the Japanese thought that it might be an observation point.
As the Yanks neared Ussuri, they were happy to be out of the wilderness. They were dirty, tired and hungry as they arrived at Ussuri at 3:30 pm on September 4th after making nearly 14 long miles from Tikamanavo. Before arriving, however, a most unusual event occurred. Dragging themselves along …( ?????? check the books original text. unreadable)
….uld be coming along any minute, the band sent out its greetings to its buddies!
Since ancient days, no soldier was not inspired by music. The transformation that took place in the ranks hiking into Ussuri was heartfelt. When the band struck up “The Stars and Stripes Forever” the dispirited men held their hands a little higher, and their step was suddenly animated. More than one man could be seen with glistening tears upon his cheeks. Here was music from home!
The British, who had already arrived at Ussuri after fighting the battle of Kraevski, also helped to welcome the Americans. The British band struck up with “God Save the King.” The Americans were most pleased and surprised; the local inhabitants were somewhat stunned. Perhaps they had never heard the British and American anthems.
At any rate, the musical reception spurred on the weary heroes. They approached Ussuri with lighter hearts than they had known for some time.

At Ussuri –

The Americans were exuberant with the spirit of good fellowship which had overwhelmed them when they were met by the welcoming sounds of the 31st Infantry band and the greeting from the British contingent. In spite of the hardships they had endured, everything suddenly seemed right. When the rain ceased at noontime and the stillness of the atmosphere seemed to hush the possibility of further frustrations, the men of the 27th felt relaxed for the first time in many days.

Soon the marchers learned that the rumors which they had heard about the Japanese were basically true. The Japanese officers had indeed waited at Sviagino until the tracks were repaired in order that their own troops could travel to Ussuri in comparative comfort while the Americans had trudged for days through the muck and mire of that long hike. The joy of arrival was soon tempered by a great surge of angry indignation.
The American officers were concerned about the impression the bedraggled army would have upon its entrance into Ussuri. Men were ordered to spruce up. The doughboys paid little attention. Much grumbling and swearing were heard. IF their officers could be so outwitted by the Japanese, they were damned if they were going to do much to please them. One Yank commented: “We probably looked worse than we felt and there stood those damned grinning Japs all along the way.”[ix]
The Americans reached the Ussuri River at about 3 pm and established a campsite on open ground on the south bank of the river. As soon as the camp site was set there was a mad rush to jump into the river for bathing and washing clothing. Firstly, there was much water consumed by the dehydrated soldiers.
The final leg of the hike had been one of the cruelest ordeals. The men knew that their destination was close at hand and yet it took all their energies to reach it. This poem expressed how the men felt.
(With apologies to Kipling)
If you can hold your head up while the others
Are drooping theirs from marches and fatigue;
If you can drill in dust that clouds and smothers,
And still be fit to hike another league;
If you can stand the greasy food and dishes,
The long black nights, the lonesome road, the blues,
If you can choke back all the gloomy wishes
For home that seem to spring right from your shoes;
If you can laugh at sick call and the pill boys,
When all the other lads are checking in;
If you can kid and jolly all the kill-joys,
Whose faced long ago forgot to grin;
If at parade you stand fast at attention
When every muscle shrieks aloud with pain;
If you can grin and snicker at the mention
Of some bone play connected with your name;
If you succeed to keep your knees from knocking,
At the thoughts of all the bullets you may stop;
If you can do these things and really like ’em
You’ll be a regular soldier yet, old top.[x]

The shoes of most of the men were in a deplorable state. The thought of a swim was delighted, especially to relieve aching feet. “Of course we were cautioned not to drink the water but it is funny how the river went down after we all went in swimming.”[xi]

It did not take the hospital train long to fill up with twenty-five men in the worst physical or mental condition. They were taken back to the hospital.[xii]
In spite of the debility of some of the men, the Regimental Commander was pleased with the high caliber of endurance of most of his troops. The Commander is reported to have stated: “I took my troops through those awful swamps and never actually lost a single man. Yet, as soon as they got into camp they started to drop like flies.”[xiii]
At 6 pm, less than three hours after the troops arrived, orders were received from General Oi that the Americans were to remain at Ussuri until further orders. Apparently, the 27th Infantry had successfully completed an almost impossible mission much sooner than the Japanese had anticipated.
The troops were laid over for about a week. The mules as well as the men were in poor condition and needed attention. The doughboys had cleared the ground quite thoroughly. They had even buried dead bodies which strewed the site. In spite of everything, the new campsite was heaven compared to what the doughboys had endured during the previous week. The men began to sing, play games. They were thankful not to be pushing and pulling mules and wagons out of the Siberian mud. One day there was much excitement in camp when one of the men bought a small barrel from a farmer. He assumed that it was full of vodka. Soon he was surrounded by his buddies who were prepared to have a drinking spree. To their chagrin the barrel proved to be full of honey! The men subdued their disappointment by spreading their hardtack with the sweet, sticky contents.
The outwardly imperturbable spirit of the American doughboy on the first day seemed to astound The Russians, Japanese, British, Czecho-Slovaks and Chinese. All were amazed and puzzled that the Americans had been able to endure so much and still keep going. For weary as they were, the doughboys fought hunger and exhaustion and showed only relief to be out of the wilderness. More than one Wolfhound recalled this prayer, especially when they lay their weary heads down at Ussuri:

A Soldier’s Prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my gun to keep;
Grant no other soldiers take
My socks or shoes before I wake.
Lord please guard me in my slumber
And keep this cot upon its lumber.
Let no peg or guy rope break,
Nor the tent blow down before I wake.
Grant no fire drills sound at night
And in the morning let me wake
Breathing scents of sirloin steak.
God protect me in my dreams
And make it better than it seems.
Grant the time may swiftly fly
When I myself may rest on high.
Deliver me from work and drills
And when I’m sick don’t feed me pills;
And should I hurt this hand of mine,
Don’t dab it o’er with iodine.
In a snowy, downy feather bed
There I long to rest my head,
Far away from all camp scenes,
And from the smell of pork and beans.
Take me back into the land
Where I can walk without a band.
Where no thrilling bugle blows,
And where the women wash the clothes.

In spite of fervent prayers, all requests were not answered. The men still slept in leaky pup tents. Candles were doled out; some retarded the drips in the tents by holding a lighted candle over wet spots. They found that the heat dried the canvas and helped to stop the drips. But water still seeped under the tents and men often slept in puddles. Raincoats were used as flaps for the tents. However, the men were so tired that they slept through everything. There were times when they awoke to find that the water below them had frozen. They were literally obliged to rip themselves out of their iced blankets.

Both British and American soldiers recalled meeting each other on the banks of the Ussuri and fraternizing amiably. Some of the Americans remembered that while they were eating their slum, the British were frying ham and brewing tea.
The doughboys were relieved to know that they would stay in one place, at least for a few days. It was good not to be out on the ‘road’ and in the rain. Rations were increased and improved. The soldiers were given many chores to keep them active. One of their duties was to bury a mule.
Via the grapevine the Americans had heard that more troops had landed in Vladivostok and that General Graves was now in Siberia.
Many a Yank felt that it was high time for this arrival.
The Commander-in-Chief had indeed landed at Vladivostok on Labor Day, September 2, 1918.
[i]William C. Boggs, 27th Inf.
[ii]Clifford E. Strohm, Co. A, 27th Inf.
[iii]Clifford E. Strohm
[iv]Clifford E. Strohm; Nick Hochee, 27th Inf.
[v]George P. Billick, Co. A, 27th Inf.
[vi]Packard’s report
[vii]Priest’s Medical Report, WDNA
[viii]Henry C. Fry, Quartermaster Corps. Fry was not on the hike but got many details about it from those who took part.
[ix]Clifford E. Strohm
[x]Submitted by David G. Moore, Evacuation Hospital No. 17
[xi]Lawrence Nygard, Co. M, 27th Inf.
[xii]Priest’s Medical Report, WDNA
[xiii]Don Pequignot, Machine Gun Co., 27th Inf.
[xiv]Supplied by several enlisted men

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 19

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 19

The Battle of Kraevski

The Allies had occupied positions on the line for the purpose of protecting the concentration of the Oi Division between Sviyagino and Spasskoe. The English and French battalions, some Czecho-Slovak troops and Kalmikov’s detachment were under the command of French Lt. Colonel Pichon. The enemy, 5000 strong, gradually had advanced toward these Allied first lines. Kalmikov’s unit, which had been on the right wing on the 20th, was surrounded by the enemy. After a great effort, the Cossacks managed an escape in the direction of the railway. The enemy, encouraged by this drive, came closer to the Allied lines. Again they managed to drive the Allies back.

During the predicament Pichon told Ward: “It is bad. Kalmikov and the Cossacks are in the high point in touch with us. The Czecho-Slovak 5th Battalion is on the right guarding the road to Sviyagino yet we do not know where the enemy is lurking.”
When Pichon learned that numbers of the enemy had penetrated the wide spaces between the sentries, he realized it must have taken a concentrated effort to perform this feat. While most of the Allied troops slept in camps the usual sentries had been posted but they were too widely spaced to note that the “slippery” Bolsheviks were sneaking between them through the grass in the dead of night. When the alarm finally been sounded Kalmikov discovered that about thirty of his men were already dead or wounded. The intruders had also captured his machine guns.
When this new reached General Oi, the latter decided to go to Pichon’s assistance without waiting for a planned concentration of the troops at Sviyangino. He gave orders for the advance of the battalion to the first line. Colonel Inagaki took command at that location.
The Combat of Kraeviski, as it was officially designated by the Japanese, began on August 23, 1918._ On that day, at 12:30 pm, Otani sent a secret message to Styer. It stated that the army would commence its movements on August 27th and would attack the enemy on the 28th. It was then that the commanding officer of the AEFS was directed to have the American troops arrive at Sviyagino no later than the morning of the 26th to familiarize themselves with the terrain before the battle of the 28th started. Colonel Morrow was asked to consult with Otani that afternoon at 4 pm regarding railroad cars and other matters. Styer went to work on the arrangements. On the afternoon of the 23rd he made this memorandum: “We have at present 24 cars and still need 82. . .three passenger cars, two second class and three locomotives. The Station Master at Vladivostok has already received the order for 82 cars, but up to now we have not received them. The Regiment will be entirely ready to leave when the cars, passenger coaches and locomotives mentioned above shall have been received.”
That same night Otani received another secret message from Oi and advised Styer that the Commander of the Japanese division at the front had given him a resume of the situation regarding the enemy. The 12th Division was to move with a large force. Oi was to remain in Vladivostok. Only General Inagaki and his aids-de-camp Colonel Hyari and Major Hasinuma were to leave at 10 pm that day “to transport the American Army we will try to send quickly tomorrow if you agree. The Commander-in-Chief regrets exceedingly that this battle will be so soon, contrary to our plans. The Commander-in-Chief is very sorry. Consequently, the Commander-in-Chief believes you will understand our reason for changing our plan.”
It was in accordance with these Japanese instructions that the American Command prepared to move three trains requested. In addition, the following were made ready: ten day’s additional field rations, 5,000,000 of small ammunition (in addition to that carried by the soldiers), combat wagons and a field bakery with personnel. Detachments guarding the railway were directed to join the regiment for duty.
Because of the change in plans, the Japanese requested that the Americans go to the front at once. Thus it was that the part of the 27th Infantry not already on its way to Sviyagino entrained and left Vladivostok with Morrow on the evening of the 24th. General Oi also ordered the detachments from Spasskoe to go to Sviyangino. These various forces reached the front after the Combat of Kraevski was over and the enemy was in retreat northward.
When one considers the fact that Styer was informed shortly after noon on the 23rd and Ward was not notified until late that night one must conclude that the Japanese had full intention of attacking before the other Allies could reach their appointed destination. However, the British Colonel was unaware of this. Upon receipt of word from Oi he had set his watch for 1 am. Inagaki was due at 2 am and the Japanese were supposed to start the attack at 3 am. Dukoveskoie was the site this attack. It was but four miles away. The British were destined to be among those in reserve.
Back at camp Colonel Ward began to pace the field at precisely 1 am. He was and heard no activity. At 1:45 he deemed it necessary to rouse the Japanese who were to meet him at 2 am before the attack for 3 am. The Japanese officers seemed unmoved. He explained the impossibility of rousing all the detachments and completing a four mile march in the night in a matter of minutes. The Czecho-Slovaks were asleep and the Cossacks were curled up with their horses, deaf to any words of warning. In spite of his tensions, Ward felt the incredibility of it all. “What a lunatic war this is.”
But to Ward orders were orders. He assembled his men and Captain Clark had the 25th Middlesex, transport and all, ready to march twenty-five minutes after orders were given. The British advanced along the railway. A mile and a half alo remonition concerning the Japanese had been well founded. He recalled Balsaar’s warnings. Still it was galling after getting the British troops out to learn that they were not to take part in the battle. But the situation might change. Ward instructed Capt. Bath to move forward and to support him if necessary.
Other troops had been issued directives. The Japanese field and heavy artillery and the mountain guns of the Czecho-Slovaks near the railroad bridge of Dukoveskoie were to prepare to attack. The second company of engineers accompanied this artillery as did a Czecho-Slovak battalion which had been guarding the railroad station at Sviyagino and also the 5th Czech Regiment, less one battalion. This left the remaining British, French and Japanese troops and Kalmikov’s detachment to constitute the general reserve which had been ordered to assemble at 3 am.
To the north of Dukoveskoie the three battalions of the Japanese infantry under Brigadier Commander Mihara had constituted the main early attacking force on the first line. After the infantry attack began the enemy was pushed back to the stream east of Dukoveskoie. This occurred at dawn at a time when all of the Allied forces were advancing. The river was crossed north of Dukoveskoie and a hand-to-hand engagement took place.
The Japanese reported: “The Japanese troops rushed forward without loss of time and drove back the enemy. . .with the help of hand grenades. At this moment Captain Consmi met a glorious death, being hit by an enemy grenade.”
At the spot where the British had been ordered to meet for a rendezvous, Ward was busy or heard but Ward gave the order to his men to load and to be prepared for action. At that moment one of his men discharged his rifle.
Padley recalled the incident well. “It was before daybreak and we were at the outskirts of the village of Dukoveskoie when the rifle was discharged. In his book Ward reports a second shot but I know positively there was no second shot. It was just that one. The Colonel who had a pretty good platform voice could have been heard a half mile away, ‘Who’s the B…….. foot that did that?’ “
Within half a minute the night calm was broken by the firing of hundreds of rifles. The battle had begun. The enemy attacked Dukoveskoie from the west side of the tracks.
During a lull, Ward took his bearings. His area had been plowed by shells from end to end. The first one had piched just under a peasant’s cottage. The cottage and its occupants were destroyed. A heavy purple pall hung over everything. Had the British been on that particular spot they would have suffered a similar fate.
In the growing light, with the aid of his glasses, Ward was able to make out the scheme of advance. He saw a continuous line from one mile on the left of the railway extending for some miles to the right. A space of about 100 yards on each side of the line was unoccupied.
It is doubtful if the Bolsheviks were aware that such an Allied army was now in Siberia. There was much fear among the partisans and not too much resistance. Those who could, simply made off. When the attack was mounted the Bolshevik armored train came into view. There was some machine gun fire from the Allied side.
The British had heard that the Japanese took no prisoners. The latter had bayoneted the engine driver, who, rumor had it, had been pressed into service.
By 8 am some of the first line troops had reached the hill to the south of Kraevski and were assembled. “The troops of the Japanese infantry company sent to cut the retreat from Kraevski suffered under a violent fire from an armored train while they were crossing marshy ground. Forty men were put out of action, but the company pressed on and cut the railroad, capturing two armored trains. The enemy, thus broken, retired. The Allied armies took up the pursuit of them which was pressed on the 25th.”
Padley remarked that he felt Ward’s description in the latter’s book read more like a comic opera than a true account of the battle. The Colonel described how he went prancing along the track taking a pot shot “with Lance-Corporal’s rifle.” The lieutenant recalled that Ward had several hundred men moving en masse down a railroad track. “We made a pretty good target, however poor the gunnery,” he stated.
“Therefore Dwight and I took it upon ourselves to put the men in extended order on either side of the track. We knew it was much safer that way although moving through the muskeg retarded our speed. The Colonel with a few bold spirits, including Captain Clark, who should have known better, continued on down the track. The next day we were reprimanded for re-forming the men. Perhaps we should have taken the high road and let the enemy gunners get their bag.”_
“There, at the side of the road,” Padley recalled, “was a man with a coil of wire, telephone wire perhaps, turned around his arm. He was prone on the track in his blood soaked shirt. Around the armored truck were a dozen other corpses, dead some ten hours. Their glassy eyes stared into the sun. The whole thing was beastly. I wish I could erase it from my memory.”
A resume of the battle indicated that the enemy had 8,000 men. He left 300 dead on the battlefield. The total dead and wounded of the Japanese forces was estimated at 150. Losses of the Allied troops were not high but no detailed report of them had been received just after the battle. The principal booty consisted of two armored trains, two field guns, four machine guns, ten kilometers of telegraph wire plus a quantity of rifles, ammunition, etc.
By the evening of the 26th the Allies reached their objective – the hill. The enemy was retreating toward Ussuri Station. The Allied troops in the vicinity of the railway also proceeded toward Ussuri.
Later a communique from Gen. Nakajima to General Headquarters in Vladivostok stated that the Japanese had obtained information from prisoners. “Among three of them, two were farmers from around Ussuri Station and the third one was on his way. All three had been forcibly drafted. During the combat at Kraevski they deserted as soon as they saw Japanese troops. The following is their statement: (a) The draft of men between 18 and 20 was carried out in the Ussuri region on the 1st of August. These men were enlisted under the threat of death if they refused. (b) Equipment – the Bolsheviki sent them to Iman and gave them arms, etc. These prisoners were enrolled in the 1st Company of the 6th Peasant Battalion. Every man in this company had a Russian rifle and from 100 to 120 rounds of ammunition. (c) Re the Combat of Kraevski – the commander-in-chief of the Maritime Province is Sakovitch. The troops around Kraevski were under the command of a Czech named Rinder. The troops which participated in this action consisted of seven or eight battalions, each company having a machine gun. The battalion to which these prisoners belonged was stationed at Antonovka; it had four pieces of artillery. The Bolsheviki were said to have eight armored trains, five of which had been seen by these prisoners; two trains have been captured by the Japanese. They saw one or two aeroplanes over Ussuri Station. (d) The monthly pay of the soldier according to rule is 150 rubles per month, but they received on 17 rubles. The drafted men are forced to fight under threat of death. The rumor regarding the arrival of Allied troops which had been current for a long time was verified only after the Combat of Kraevski.”

Railroad employees along the line were interrogated as to the strength of the retreating enemy. On August 26th they reported that there were some 4,000 infantry, two squadrons of cavalry and 19 pieces of artillery. There were also some armored trains and ammunition cars. During his retreat the enemy was said to be destroying the railroad and pillaging widely. He continued retreating until the 27th. On that date the Japanese infantry entered Ussuri Station where it immediately occupied the railway bridge which was not yet destroyed. The railway bridges that were destroyed by the enemy included one north of Kraevski, one north of Shmakovka and the Kaoul bridge. It was estimated that the work of repairing these bridges would require several days.

According to a Russian who had talked to the enemy, the latter had no information until August 27th of the existence of a Japanese army at the front. He stated that “The Bolsheviks were greatly surprised by the attack of the Allied army and his retreat was carried out in indescribable disorder.”
Toward the end of August there was a great deal of activity all along the line. Echelon No. 1 of the Chinese troops arrived at Nikolsk on the 25th and left for Evguenievka on the 26th. Echelon No. 2 was expected to follow a day later. Echelon No. 3 had arrived at Harbin by the 26th and Nos. 4 and 5 were en route thereto. The Allied commander was expected to give the Chinese echelons necessary orders at the Nikolsk Station.
Two American echelons, two Japanese and two of Czecho-Slovaks with automobiles had left Vladivostok on the 25th. There were also orders to send four additional Japanese echelons.
At Evaguenievka there were four locomotives. One was said to be filled with Kalmikov troops, two with Japanese and one with Americans.
Although there was no unusual delay with regard to trains, there was considerable concern to keep them moving. Part of this concern was caused by a strike at one of the mines. The reserve supply of coal for the railroad was 1,800,000 poods_ as of August 26th. As the requirements were estimated at 30,000 poods per day, there was some concern as to the duration of the strike.
More sidings were deemed necessary at various stations so that war material could be adequately handled.
It seemed to observers that the whole of Russia’s people was anxious to use the railroads in all directions.
Appendix #21, translated for General Headquarters, Vladivostok

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 18

November 6, 2010 1 comment

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 18

– The British –

While the Americans were fighting with guerillas and bandits and working their way to Sviyagino, the British had been active in the field. The latter were proud to have been the first of the Allied troops to arrive in Vladivostok (on August 3, 1918) and never missed an opportunity to call attention to that fact. Almost at once, the British had been shuttled out of the city to the Ussuri front.

However, a number of the British Contingent had been hospitalized. These troops had already fought intensively in Europe and suffered from war fatigue. They were rated B-1, unfit for service in a theater of war. The Tommies called themselves “Members of the Hernia Battalion.”
The official name of the British contingent was The British Military Mission. It was headed by Major General Alfred W. Knox, a former attache in Petrograd.
General Knox had been attached to the British Embassy at Petrograd and had escaped to England at the start of the Revolution in 1917. His knowledge of the Russian language made him a good choice to be sent to Vladivostok to take charge of the British troops. “He was a tall, distinguished person.”
General Graves felt that Knox had considerable influence in shaping the British policy in Russia. “He spoke Russian and was personally known to many of the former Czarist officials; he was naturally autocratic and could not, if he had desired to do so, give sympathetic consideration to the aspirations of the peasant class in Russia whom he characterized as swine.” The White Russians, Graves thought, “convinced General Knox, and I think he was honest in his views, that if the Allies would arm, equip, pay, clothe and feed a Russian force, the Eastern Front could be formed of Russian volunteers. This Eastern Army was to be commanded by Allied and Russian officers, and General Knox though only a few Allied officers would be necessary.”
The British Military Mission consisted of the 9th Battalion, the Hampshire Regiment and the 25th Middlesex Regiment. It was the latter regiment which arrived August 3, 1918, 800 strong. These men had been moved from Singapore and Hong Kong. Many came from the Western Front of Europe and were not too pleased to be again sent into field service. The Hampshires did not leave India until October of 1918. The latter, therefore, landed in Vladivostok after the Americans. The Middlesex and the Hampshire regiments wintered at Omsk and Krasnoyarsk.
Colonel John Ward, commander of the Middlesex Regiment, had the best of his men on the way to Spasskoe by August 5th. The Colonel records that they left to the cheers of the multitude. Those cheers continued to ring in his ears for some time. A battalion of Czecho-Slovaks and a guard of honor from H.M.S. SUFFOLK hailed them and when they marched into town the soldiers, sailors and marines of many nations waved and cheered.
A reference book on the subject, however, reports that the British and Japanese were received in silence while the French and American troops were those who were cheered by the crowds.
It was upon arrival that Ward was directed to move his troops to the Ussuri front. As Commander of Operations, the Colonel had under his charge a small group of his B-1 soldiers. He estimated that some 18,000 enemies would oppose him.
As he marched out of Vladivostok, Ward returned the salutes of groups all along the road. He was a pompous sort of man who had been a Member of Parliament from Stroke-on-Trent. He had also been the secretary of the largest trade union in England. When the war broke out Ward did much recruiting for Kitchener, the propagandist whose posters aimed at stirring the hearts of men and women. Such posters titled “My Daddy had gone to war, has yours?” are today memorabilia of the early war years. Ward’s activity in recruiting men gained his commission for him. He was promoted to colonel and given command of the 25th Middlesex which he began to train on Salisbury Plain. Subsequently he was sent abroad for garrison duty. Two of his companies were left at Singapore and the other two proceeded to Hong Kong.
One of the men serving under Ward was Lt. A.C. Padley. The latter’s diary indicates that he had left Singapore on the SS LAMA and proceeded to Hong Kong where the PING SUEY carried him to Vladivostok. According to Padley, one unidentified man was too sick to face another tour of service. He jumped overboard before the vessel reached Singapore. This caused consternation and sadness. The Lieutenant was saddened at the wanton loss of another man who had done his best.
Padley was born on July 20, 1889 at Dent-de-Lion, Westgate-on-sea, Kent, England. He had grown up on a farm, rented by his father, which had derived its name from Westgate Towers, built in King John’s reign. It was some 800 years old and in good state of preservation. “Almost as good as Westgate Towers in Canterbury,” commented the lieutenant.
In 1914 Padley enlisted in the Royal Engineers at Rugby and was commissioned to the 4th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1915. A colorful military career followed.
“I was one of the lucky 11 who escaped with two bullets from the Somme Salient in France in 1916. The 9th Dublin Fusiliers had 11 officers in the morning and at nightfall there were but two! That was some blood bath. Afterwards I could peep through the port hole on a hospital ship as she lay at anchor and see the green fields of Old England. I had a brief spell at Somerville, Oxford, which served as a hospital; it had been a ladies’ college before the war. I was booked for India and left with a convoy of eight from Plymouth on May 4, 1917. Rumors said that the Germans knew all about us and were waiting. Incidentally, 55 ships had been sunk the previous week.”
Padley had some fond memories of that trip. He recalled: “The tub went west and still further west for days on end and headed for Freetown for coal. Although the WARMER CASTLE carried chiefly British troops, there were a few civilians among them including Espanoza, a well-known actor at the turn of the century. He accompanied a group on a South African tour. Another was an actress famous for her part in the Chocolate Soldier when it first appeared. She sang bits of it at evening concerts on shipboard.
“Table Mountain — a day or two ashore. Then the Cape. As that time I thought the strip of water separating Holyhead from Dubli
n to be the dirtiest strip known to man, but I had not yet seen the Cape of Good Hope at the ‘right time’ of year! Something of a monsoon awaited us at Durban. We packed sodden baggage in already sodden tents but kind people came out into the rain and invited us indoors. The next day the sun shone and we saw South Africa in all its glory. Durban once seen, is never forgotten. White rollers roaring up the beach for some of the finest surf bathing in the world. Blue mystic shore line of Pietermaritsburg. The whiteness and luxury of the costly buildings; the blue sea and bluer sky and green everywhere. Spent a little time on a Cunarder. . .not built for the tropics. It carried us away.
The EMDEN was around and everyone was scared stiff. Portholes were blinded; not a match for a gasper on deck. Go below and could not sleep; nearly all dying with the heat. Boer tobacco goes rancid in the hold. Bombay and bustle and then we disperse. Some go as far north as the Himalayas. We reach Ambala in the Punjab. . .we travel south to Bangalore; a brief stop at Agra to the Taj Mahal, drill and listen to lectures. Saunter through the sunlit glades of suburban Bangalore when the day’s work is done. Then Singapore with its odoriferous mango swamps, rickshaws, chotta pegs, tiffin club, chatter in the evenings, raffles, etc. Singapore is cocky and complacent and sublimely unconscious of what the morrow may bring forth.”
Padley finally reached Siberia where he continued to report the highlights and experiences of his sojourn there. Usually the meager notations were jotted down with the stubs of the poorest type of lead pencil and were often written in the dark or by candlelight. His 1918 diary was purchased in Mandalay and is today but a burnt and untidy reminder of his activities of so long ago.
The Lieutenant went with Ward on the first trip to Spasskoe along with 500 other men and a machine gun section of 43 men with four heavy type guns. When they arrived at Nilolsk on August 6th there was evidence that a battle had been fought between the Czecho-Slovaks and the Bolsheviks. The men viewed gruesome sights of horribly mutilated Czech soldiers who had fallen into the hands of what Ward termed “the terrorists.” Ward swore with indignation.
Once at the platform of the station at Nikolsk-Ussuri, Ward saw a Japanese rush forward and jam the butt of his rifle into the back of a Russian officer. The sentry grinned when the officer dropped to the ground and writhed with pain. The soldier was so pleased with this act that he was about to repeat it on the Russian woman. Ward drew his pistol to stop him. When the Colonel reported the incident to Japanese headquarters he was scathingly asked why he took the part of a Russian. Although Ward became an opponent of American policy in Siberia, he could not tolerate the Japanese attitude.
At about the time the British arrived, the Bolsheviks (when leaving Baikal Station) had placed guns on two car ferries. They shelled the Czecho-Slovak forces daily. This, however, did not hinder the latter’s progress. Continual artillery action to the east of the tunnel had lasted until about 10:30 August 2nd, and then less frequently. Czecho-Slovak and Russian forces continued to move over the hill.
Gaida was reported to have passed the tunnel to the front on August 2nd and on the morning of the 4th Colonel Kadlets moved his headquarters to the front.
In Vladivostok information was received that the boldness of the enemy made it imperative that the tunnel be completed in order to permit an armored train to pass through the hill no later than August 6th. (Previously we have seen that the RRSC was alerted to this deadline and was working full force.) The British had been directed to move from Vladivostok to the front. Everything was done to prepare the tunnel for passage but rain hindered the work.
By Saturday night, August 10th, the tunnel had been prepared so that eight echelons of Czecho-Slovaks were able to go through. Further movement was again interrupted by a slide and falling rocks which had derailed a train.
During this activity, the British had become firmly convinced that the Allies should have greater forces. This was no new concept, for the British reply delivered to the United States State Department on July 30, 1918 had revealed a clear difference of opinion between Washington and London.
Although approving aid to the Czecho-Slovaks, the British War Cabinet feared that the proposed force was inadequate. Conveying his opinion of the American Aide Memoire to Lord Reading Balfour had written:
“On the other hand we cannot pretend to ourselves nor ought we convey to them that we regard (the) size of the American-Japanese force as in any way adequate to the necessities of the case. To us it seems almost certain that either (the) Allied expedition will fail or that it will have to be largely reinforced; we hope the latter. But these are hopes you can hardly convey to (the) President.”
Ward, now in Siberia, proceeded to Spasskoe where he and some of his men dined with the Czecho-Slovak officer. Lt. Padley made this notation in his diary on August 6th: “We were glad to have arrived somewhere. We relaxed a bit, had an interesting dinner and went to a picture show afterwards, my first cinema in Siberia.”
On the 7th Ward was busy with plans and surveys. According to the Colonel, the British troops were happily received everywhere. He noted that they went to Sviyagino “which was the last fair sized town before the place called Kraevski.” Actually the latter was merely a station without a town but it became a busy spot within range of enemy artillery. At Sviyagino Ward again took tea with the Czecho-Slovaks and discussed the situation. Then he went to Spasskoe and decided that that would be his forward base. The British troops went into quarters wondering what the morrow would bring.
Ward’s interpreter was Lt. Bolsaar of the Imperial Polish Army. The latter accompanied Ward for a long consultation with Ataman Kalmikov, the Cossack leader who was in the good graces of the Allies at that time. His cruel nature which was later to strike fear everywhere he appeared was not yet revealed.
As the war progressed to Kalmikov engaged brutal members of his own clan and ordered wholesale murders of people. One of these henchmen was named Julienk, a member of the Ataman’s “Military Legal Department” which was in charge of carrying out murders. Julienk carried out such notorious deeds as robbing and murdering the Swedish Red Cross agents Hedblom (Swedish) and Opachang (Norwegian). But y rolled into the Amur to the Devil’s Mother.”
A Russian school teacher named A.N. Laremenko became one of the partisans. He reported the incident. Laremenko left an unusually fine account of his experiences and tells of his meeting Julienk in a Vladivostok jail, describing him as a striking example of the really criminal, sadistic type characteristic of those who followed Kalmikov.
Among the Czecho-Slovak commanders who were consulted on the situation were Captains Pomerenshiv and Stefanek who commanded the 8th Czecho-Slovak Battalion. Stefanek had been a brewer in Prague before the war, had been captured by the Russians and had been liberated after the Revolution. He had made quite a name for himself in Siberia and later was to become a General and the War Minister of Czecho-Slovakia. After the war he was killed in a plane crash while on his way home.
The British left Kraevski on the 9th. On the 10th they went on bivouac. Kalmikov was in action at this time.
Until that time the British had been billeted in railway coaches. The Czecho-Slovaks, who always seemed to have a preference for wooded areas as a site for defensive works, now selected one on the left bank of the road and insisted that it would be an ideal site for a British encampment. Riding about on his horse with wanted pomposity, Ward felt that the selection should have been his to make. He rejected the site chosen by the Czecho-Slovaks. He ordered that another site be prepared on the left flank of the woods. It was only 200 yards in front of the suggested site and was at a point where the roads crossed at a hollow spot on the ground. Ward claimed that he would feel more secure in that location pointing to the added protection of tall marsh grass which would serve to hide his position from observation by the enemy.
Men were immediately assigned to dig trenches. The Tommies grumbled at this; they were not in France where they had dug many “bloody” trenches. “France” commented a Tommie, “I wish to God I was there; we might have had Huns and lice, but I bet a free trip to Brighton they don’t have these damned mosquitoes there.” The British were becoming acquainted with the mosquitoes which had plagued the Yanks in another area. The enormous black mosquitoes were furiously attacking everyone. They called them the Siberian Monsters, just as had the Americans. Even in the tropics, there had been no similar insects. The flying black creatures were of an incredible size and ferociousness. Perhaps the only man who derived a modicum of satisfaction was the Colonel himself; he recalled that back in Hong Kong he had innocently inquired if it would be necessary to requisition mosquito netting for his men. He had met with the utter scorn of the Chief of Staff.
“Who ever heard of mosquitoes in Siberia?” the chief remarked reproachfully, “you know, Ward, you are not going to the South Pacific, you are going north.”
Ward smarted under the scorn.
The 25th Middlesex had known with some degree of revulsion the tropical breed of mosquitoes; such were dangerous chiefly as malaria carriers. Ward realized that doubtlessly the C.O. had been right on that day in Hong Kong. Now in Siberia, the coldest of all places he could imagine, Ward wished that the Chief would stop by for a visit and see the huge ugly winged mosquitoes which would suck a man’s blood through a thick blanket as readily as if they attacked his bare skin.
Ward himself reported: “They would find a place in the hair just below the cap and would raise swollen ridges of the head that would become so painful that it became almost impossible to wear any headgear.”
No one had to describe them to the men digging the trenches. One man’s wrists were puffed out level with his hands. Another’s eyes were nearly shut after an onslaught of the insects that had attacked him the night before as he slept.
Nevertheless, the men continued digging; many a thought must have turned to a quiet, peaceful English countryside with gardens and with English cats. At about dawn the trenches were finally completed. The men took pride in the works. According to Padley, on August 13th the British made camp at the perimeter of the woods.
Meanwhile, the Czecho-Slovaks had skillfully constructed a bower hut of tree branches. This was intended for the use of the Command. A hearty laugh went up when the men saw it. The quaint structure seemed completely out of place near their newly dug trenches. One man was reminded of a fairytale in which at any moment Hansel and Gretel would appear. He would have preferred to see their trail of bread crumbs rather than Bolshevik shells.
Still the hut was a serviceable affair and was a good hideaway for the officers or so it was thought, until the rains came. Then the British found it necessary to leave the sanctuary and repair to an old abandoned hut with a wild and yet appealing abandoned garden. One officer with a British fondness for flowers was reminded of his own garden so many miles away. While inspecting the profusion of varieties in this charming uncared-for field, he was suddenly shocked back to reality by discovering a shell which had apparently been left there by the Bolsheviki. Excitement followed and the area was immediately deemed unsafe. The men again returned to the mosquito-infested edge of the dark woods.
Nerves had become taut. An attack was expected at any time. Finding of the shell had made things uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it was generally hoped and believed that although the enemy had complete mastery of the opposite side that he would be easily sighted as he came over the river and into the range of the British rifles.
For what seemed an endless time, nothing happened. The quiet and peacefulness tended to calm some fears. The silence had become a subject for conversation among the men. Apparently, there were no revolutionists in the area. All might have gone along quietly until a ragged old tramp came wandering up the road.
An officer gave the order to detain and inspect the ragamuffin. The latter showed passports which seemed to be in order. The sentries were instructed to allow the man to pass but to direct him so that he could not see the British trenches. In the light of future developments, either the trenches had been seen or the tramp had sensed their location. Wherever his destination led him, the traveller must have reported the presence of the British in that area. Apparently this had been done with such accuracy that by daybreak the enemy artillery began spraying the woods with shrapnel and shells.
“We were at breakfast when one of those damned things dropped within 20 yards of us. It pitched just under a tree and lifted it wierdly into the air,” an officer reported.
Ward cursed the tramp and regretted not having had him shot. After sizing up the situation, the Colonel anticipated that things would worsen. The enemy had expended such a number of shells (some of German manufacture) that the indication was that they had an abundant supply of ammunition. The British had practically nothing to send back and were relieved when the enemy fire finally died down. The respite was short-lived. By darkness the shelling began again. The unequal duel lasted until about 2 am.
Via field telephone communication it was learned that the Czecho-Slovaks were retiring across their front and Kalmikov’s Cossacks were retiring over the river lower down and were taking up a position at Antonovka at the extreme right of the British rear.
The British realized that their position had become dangerous. The next move by the enemy could place the latter near the British line of communications.
“Where in hell are the Japs?” one Tommy asked. The absence of the Japanese resulted in indignation on the part of the British. Lt. Bolsaar, who had remained in the background, now advised: “Don’t trust the Japanese, I know them. They say they will march, but they will not come.”
Many a man was to recall that statement in the months ahead. Colonel Ward was assailed by doubts concerning the Japanese.
Although the British soldier had a reputation of being indomitable in unfavorable situations, some of the men in Siberia were disturbed. “The Fairy Godmother must be with us,” one man remarked, “or we would have been deader than doornails by now.”
Colonel Ward had sent an SOS to the Navy. Until two days before, the British had been able to give an occasional shot in return, but the Bolshevik gunners had found their mark on the two guns which were supposed to prevent any advance attack along the railway. As a result the only two field guns of the British had to be called in to fill that gap. This left the infantry without any artillery protection. It was then that Ward decided to call upon the Navy. He wired Commodore Payne, R.N. of H.M.S. SUFFOLK, lying at Vladivostok, of the untenable position in which the 25th Middlesex found itself. The message stated: “Send artillery assistance at once.”
Payne received the urgent message and, in an incredibly short time, he had fitted up an armored train with two 12-pounder naval guns and two machine guns. A similar train followed behind. The whole was under the command of Captain Bath, R.N., L.I.
Later Ward was to say of this aid: “It was scarcely possible to describe the feeling of relief with which our exhausted and attenuated forces welcomed this timely aid from our ever ready Navy.”
As the armored train came within sight of the Tommies, it did not take them long to place the 12-pounders into action. A memorable sight ensued. One shot ladened directly on the leading enemy engine. Volumes of steam burst from its dies and when the vapor subsided the scene evoked a cheer from the men in the trenches.
This result enabled the British to bring the two Czech guns into position to keep down the fire of the enemy. It also gave the Tommies a sense of security. Their rear was now safe in case they were forced to retire.
Lt. Padley recorded: “When the artificers from the H.M.S. SUFFOLK came up in that armored train and pulled up at the points at Kraevski to forestall an enemy advance it was certainly a welcome sight. This may help to explain why, when anything went wrong in the trenches, a weary soldier could be heard to exclaim; ‘Thank God we have a Navy!’ “
The Bolsheviks were obviously taken by surprise by they appearance of the British train. Later the Bolsheviks began to spray shrapnel but were not able to locate the British guns.
The Navy had given the soldier a new sense of security. The small party in the advance lookout was practically surrounded. Under Petty Officer Moffat they managed to escape, but the enemy was at their heels. It was left to a marine named Mitchell to save them. Seeing Moffat in difficulty, he turned on his knee and faced the pursuers. Their fire was erratic but his was cool and accurate.
As the enemy train advanced to a point near the British defensive works, havoc might have ensued. However, the British 12-pounders were too smartly handled to allow any liberties to be taken.
The Bolsheviks remained silent the next day, but at night they again began to shell the British, this time from a new vantage point. This consisted in the occupation of an Orthodox Church set high upon a hill; the Church tower was used as an observation post. This aroused the indignation of the British, but no orders came to blast the church. As the men waited, an enemy armored train moved up at 9:30 am. four other such trains followed. However, when a flank fire was directed at Ward’s new position the shells fell far short. His remaining gun changed position and by skillful maneuvering it was placed sufficiently near the enemy to put every shot near its mark. One shell was planted directly into the observation tower which caught fire at once and burned to the ground. As the tower burned the Tommies were sorry to see a lovely old church go up in flames; but they realized that lives had been saved by eliminating that observation point.
The veteran Czecho-Slovaks whose gunners were with the British then fired four shots so rapidly that the enemy was deceived into believing that four guns were in action against them. After about two hours the Bolsheviks retired with two guns out of action.
These had not been an easy few days for the British so newly arrived on the Siberian scene; this was also true for the Czecho-Slovaks and the French who had assisted. Yet back in Valdivostok the Japanese official had reported to American Headquarters that merely “some slight operations” had occurred from August 18th to August 23rd in the vicinity of Ussuri. Nothing was divulged as to the strength or location of the Japanese troops. The enemy was said to have been repulsed by machine guns furnished by the French. On August 2nd Japanese Headquarters had announced that the Kalmikov forces had occupied the position of Antonovka and had been attacked on the 20th from the rear but had effected a retreat in the direction of Kraevski situated about five versts distant.
The situation was considered difficult by the Japanese who stated that the village had been defended “under the energetic command of Colonel Pichon.” According to the communique, 8000 men were at Khabarovsk, not too far distant. Five thousand of these were said to be Austro-German and 3000 Bolsheviki. A majority of the inhabitants of that city were considered hostile to the Allies.
The officials in Vladivostok regarded the situation ominous. Nothing had been mentioned about the British who had left the city earlier in the month to cope with the outbreak on the Ussuri line. The Allied commanders considered the Japanese reports distorted. Questions were raised as to what the British, French and Czecho-Slovaks were doing. All that the communiques seemed to mention was the great success of the “glorious Japanese army.”
In the field word had reached the Bolsheviks that the Allied armies were assembling in Vladivostok with the intention  of marching forward to wipe them out. At first the Bolsheviks had not bee impressed by such rumors considering such merely as a ruse; when they saw the British and the Czecho-Slovaks returning their fire, the strong attack of the Naval train and heard reports that the Americans were also on the move, they began to reconsider the validity of the rumors.
The Bolsheviks began to use tactics to confuse the peasants who were already petrified at the sight of so many strangers in their areas. As the Bolsheviks retreated they murdered local residents and pillaged villages. They also warned ignorant inhabitants that foreign soldiers were coming to torture them.
Meanwhile, Col. Ward’s forces continued activity and artillery action in his sector in the woods. Lt. Balsaar continued advising Ward not to rely on the possibility of the Japanese making a flanking move as had been promised.
Ward arose early one morning to see a weary sentry walking his post. In a beautiful, serene Siberian sky the Colonel tried to picture what the coming day would hold in store. The sentry soon aroused the bugler who might have been disturbed in a dream of home to suddenly find himself back in a distant and alien country. After reveille was sounded, the camp was quickly bursting with activity and ready for another endless day.
A phone buzzed. The Czech operator answered; a serious expression appeared on his face. Returning the receiver to its hook on a large tree which served as part of the communication system, he turned to Balsaar.
“Major Pichon wants to see Colonel Ward at once at headquarters. It seems to be very serious,” he reported. Nero, Ward’s splendid horse was brought around at once and the Colonel soon was on his way.
Expressions of anxiety were heard in the ranks. Making his way to headquarters, Ward learned of the gravity of the situation. Pichon informed Ward that large numbers of the enemy had infiltrated between the sentries. The situation required immediate action to prevent annihilation of the Allied forces.
In camp the men had been warned to shoot any stranger on sight. When some men were sighted coming along the road, rifles were leveled.
Suddenly the voice of Percy Dwight was heard. “Wait! Don’s shoot! I think those troops are Czechs.” And so they were. They had become detached from their unit and were searching for the Allied lines.
Ward and Pinchon meanwhile had decided that a withdrawal was the only alternative to envelopment. Orders were drawn up so that a retreat would be both methodical and efficient. The Czecho-Slovaks were to retire first past Ward’s lines and entrain at Kraevski; the British and the French were to bring up the rear. The latter, in turn, were to be covered by an English armored train assisted by a machine gun company of the Middlesex Regiment under Lt. King. “So the evacuation of our splendid position regretfully began.”
The 12th Division had moved up from Sviyagino to deploy the Japanese troops immediately behind the new line. They pushed their right flank out far beyond the Bolshevik positions; early in the evening the Japanese began to envelop the enemy left with their usual wide turning movement. The Japanese units now acted as a reserve and were in position before sunset. The British were ordered to move the observation post of their armored trains 600 yards ahead. Lt. King, Ward’s machine gun officer, was directed to move forward with a reduced company of Czecho-Slovak infantry to protect his advanced post.
Considerable action had taken place on the night of August 22nd. There were constant skirmishes between the British and the enemy. About 8:30 on the morning of the 23rd the British found that the Japanese patrols had quietly retired without giving notice. It was also noted that the enemy was in position on the plain for an attack and had alrea of the enemy. He arrived in time to see a duel between one of the British armored trains and a “rather spirited fellow of the same sort from the other side.”
Shells were falling to the right of the British train on the very road on which the officers were riding. They dismounted and sent the horses out of range. They then boarded the British train and observed the contest.
The situation grew tense. One of the 12-pounders faulted and the British had to retire. They could not go too far back as it was obvious that the terrorists would follow and wreak havoc upon the British infantry in the trenches near the railroad. Capt. Bath was aware of this danger and steamed forward firing rapidly. Shells burst about his target and so bewildered the enemy that the latter retired to safety.
By 7 pm a few sharp rifle cracks were heard. These sounds soon became mixed with the staccato chatter of machine guns. The rolling sound of conflict spread from the center along the entire right front. Until then it had been exclusively a small arms fight. At this point the Bolshevik artillery opened up; the Japanese and Czecho-Slovak batteries followed.
The weather was beautiful and it might well have been another splendid Siberian summer night. Instead, all hell broke loose and the area became a flashing inferno. Ward described it thus: “The silent tree-clad mountains to right and left vibrated with the music of battle, while shell and shrapnel screeched like frightened ghouls over the valley below, where white and yellow men were proving that there is no color bar to bravery. This din lasted about two hours and then died away almost as rapidly as it began.”
It had been a long and hard day. Ward turned into his wagon for the night and started the nightly ritual of fighting mosquitoes. The trains steamed slowly back to Sviyagino and all was silent again.
Ward had not been asleep long when a staff captain from Japanese Headquarters awakened him to deliver an urgent message. It was the order of the day and read: “To Colonel Ward. Officer Commanding Reserves. Operation Order by Lieut.-General S. Oie, Commanding 12th Division, Svagena August 23, 1918.”
“1. All enemy attacks were driven back today. We gained two machine guns and five captives.
“2. The Allied troops will attack the enemy, inflicting upon them an annihilating disaster, tomorrow; August 24.
“3. The Japanese troops will attack the enemy, starting the present line, at 3 o’clock, the 24th, morning.
“4. The reserve British, French, Kalmakoff’s forces, and a few Japanese companies will be under the command of Japanese. Colonel Inagaki will arrive at the north-western side of Dukoveskoie at 2 o’clock tomorrow morning.
“(Signed) S. Oie
“Commanding 12th Division.”
Harry LeMoine Ruggles, Royal Canadian Artillery attached to British Railway Mission
Graves’ book
With the “Die-Hards” in Siberia by Col. John Ward
America’s Siberian Expedition 1918-1920 by Betty Miller Unterberger
Padley’s papers
Padley’s papers
Ward’s book
Colonel George H. Emerson’s Report of the American Railroad Engineers with the Czecho-Slovaks, May 5 – September 1918, WDNA
Emerson’s report
Unterberger’s book quoting Balfour to Reading, Wiseman papers
Padley’s papers
John Albert White’s book
Ward’s book; Graves’ book
Padley’s papers
Ward’s book
Ward’s book; Padley’s papers
Ward’s book; Padley’s papers
Ward’s book
Padley’s papers; Ward’s book; other reports
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Padley’s papers
Packard’s report; report from various veterans
Padley’s papers; Ward’s book
Padley’s papers
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Padley’s papers
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Ward’s book

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 17

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

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.
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

Siberian Sojourn-Volumn II, Chapter 16

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Siberian Sojourn-Volumn II, Chapter 16

Chapter XVI:  Events to the end of August 1918

As the Americans continued to arrive in Vladivostok they could not help realizing that they were engaged in an international campaign.

Simultaneous with the various summer engagements of the Czecho-Slovaks, the United States, Great Britain, France, Japan and China had issued proclamations on August 3, 1918 announcing intervention. Each stated individual policies with regard to Russia. Washington send orders directing troop movements to Vladivostok; British troops landed on Siberian soil.
Admiral Knight was obviously annoyed that he had to learn from the Japanese foreign officer that American troops would be landing shortly. He sent a confidential wire to Washington asking to be advised concerning this report. Knight had been extremely faithful in keeping Wash9ington alerted regarding conditions so one may well wonder why neither the State, War nor Naval Departments had reported to him regarding American policy. Perhaps no such policy was firmly established.
When the Americans arrived they began to associate with men from other countries. Many happy associations resulted as well as some less happy. When queried about their allies, many confusing and diverse answers were reported. The Americans were most vocal about the Japanese.

– The Japanese –

Japanese infiltration into Siberia had begun as early as the spring of 1918. At that time an unpleasant incident occurred in Vladivostok which served as a pretext to put men ashore. It was the general consensus of opinion that the Japanese had designees on the Russian maritime provinces.

“On April 4th (1918) at 11:00 a.m., several armed men in the uniform of Russian soldiers entered a shop in Vladivostok and demanded money. This being refused, they then shot and killed three Japanese. Early the following morning, Kato (Imperial Japanese Navy) put a party of marines ashore for the purpose (as he put it in a written notification to the Russian officials) of protecting the lives and property of Japanese citizens in the city. A second Japanese contingent was landed later in the day, making a total of 600 men ashore. The British followed suit by putting ashore 50 men as a guard for their consular establishment.
Kato explained to Knight the same day that he had been unable to find any authority on shore to whom he could appeal for the protection of his nationals. He had received information, he said, that Russian communist sailors had planned to loot the city; he thought the attack on the Japanese might have been a premature move in this direction. He had therefore acted under necessity. He had not received any further instructions from his government; but he expected an increase of his force by one more cruiser and three destroyers, to arrive April 6.”
As for the landing of troops for the intervention in the summer 1918, the first body of the Japanese detachment departed from Moji and Ujina between August 3 and August 21, 1918.
The first force arrived in Vladivostok on August 5, 1918 on the Hizen Maru. It was followed on the 11th by two transports with some 20,000 troops. Immediately upon landing the soldiers paraded down the main street of Vladivostok.
On the 12th, 17th, and 21st similar landings took place. There seemed to be no limit to the Japanese as they poured into the city. The original plan of supplying 7,000 troops had already been far exceeded at this early date.
The Japanese commander, General Kikuzo Otani, by Imperial Japanese Order of August 10, 1918, was instructed to prepare the detachment under the command of the 12th Division. He was also instructed to command the detachments of England, the United States, France, Italy and China. All were to advance as soon as was possible to the vicinity of Khabarovsk.
The aims of the Japanese were outlined in an official Japanese report: “The Japanese conformity with an American proposal, the War office authorities, with the consent of the Government, on August 5, 1918, recommended to His Majesty the Emperor that Japan dispatch to the Maritime Province a detachment of 12,000 men under the command of the 12th Division of the Japanese Army. At the same time they proposed to the Allied Nations which intended to mobilize for the purpose of rescuing the Czecho-Slovak Army, and to China, with which there were special relations in view of the Sino-Japanese Military Agreement, that the right of directing the Joint Military operations be instructed to the Commander of the Japanese Army.
This proposal having been agreed upon, the staff of the Vladivostok Expeditionary Army was organized and dispatched. The instructions given to the Commander of the 12th Division upon the dispatching of the staff were that he should cooperate with the Allied Armies, rescue and assist the Czech Army, remove the German and Austrian Agencies at work in the Maritime Provinces and maintain peace and order in those regions.”
American officers soon learned that the Japanese were prone to distort reports and to arrange military assignments in such a way that the other allies would be in the rear after the Japanese had won a battle. Another source of irritation was the planting of a higher rank wherever a few American soldiers were stationed.
General Graves was to say that he had often wondered why the Japanese wanted troops at out-of-the-way station. The only conclusion he came to was that the Japanese probably felt that if they could keep troops at such stations, Japan could justify her sending of 72,000 men to Siberia instead of the 12,000 agree upon.
In her research on the Siberian Intervention, the author sent a list of queries to as many American Veterans as she was able to contact. The replies to the query “What do you know of the Japanese in Siberia?” included some of the following replies: “The Japanese had the largest number of forces in Siberia and they were the biggest pain in the neck. . .They could not be trusted as far as one could throw a bowl of sukiyaki. . .They were the cut throats of Siberia. . .The were sociable. . .We got along fine. . .The only unpleasantness was from the Japanese but this was only at the Company or Platoon level. . .They didn’t like us and we didn’t like them. . .We had to be careful what we did and said. . .They were supposed to leave Siberia when we did but I heard they left 75,000 there in civilian clothes. . .They were lousy. . .They had the most troops and did the most fighting outside of the Russians. . .I could not say as much as one good word for them. . .I liked them. . .They were in the International Military Police Force. . .I doubt if any fouler, filthier, low down scum ever existed anywhere at any time.
.As a whole the Japanese people are very clean and have a little pride. .
At the time Siberia was overrun with Japanese troops. 80,000 were up there as compared to only about 10,000 Americans. They had two infantry regiments plus detachments of quartermaster, engineers, medical corps, etc. . .I don’t think you could force livestock to go in the cars of the Japanese troop trains I saw at times. They relieved themselves right on the straw on the floor. . .The Mikado gave “my American troops” a series of five Japanese postal cards and a lettersheet as part of a Christmas present. That was pretty nice. . .My impression of the maneuvers of the Japanese was that they were in the field to grab territories that held rich deposits of coking coal when the international strike became weak. . .We had squabbles with the Japanese over water wells but a little show of force was all that was necessary. . .They were all over the place. . .Understand they were set to take over completely but the did not. . .They were polite. . .In one of the engagements a substantial number of troops watched us in action but did not participate. Another engagement in which I was in charge of the rear guard I saw some Japanese soldiers that joined us. When we were unexpectedly fired on, they excitedly indicated such by gestures and promptly hit the ground. We continued on our way leaving them behind. . .I heard so many stories and rumors that I didn’t care to believe them. . .If any, the affair was between the American and the Japanese, I recall one instance rather clearly. We were en route by train in the spring of 1919 to Verkhne-Udinsk. It was toward evening when we came to a stopping place. It must have had to do with he Japanese clearing the road for us so that we could move on, for I remember a Colonel or General Buck saying “Either you’ll move, or we’ll mover your bowels.” Shortly after which we were enabled to proceed on our way. . .There was a bit of animosity against the Japs but it seemed more flagrant among the officers.
The Japanese enlisted men always greeted us with a cheery “Owhyo” (Good morning). . .The Japanese soldier did not receive much pay. It hardly kept him in cigarettes, yet they were able to sample the fruits of the hill (Kopek Hill, houses of prostitution).
As their small pay did not permit such luxuries, the Japanese Government took care of it. Each man was supplied with a card permitting him to participate at a House of Ill Repute so he could rid himself of his excess baggage twice a month. The Madam punched the card even as you or I would have a card punched in a cafeteria. . .They were very much at the base of all military planning and the real reason for our presence in Siberia to commence with. . .Vladivostok was overrun with Japanese. . .They were dubious allies. . .I wonder if one reason we were there was to prevent the Japanese from taking over. . .One occasion that has had no publicity revolves around the Japanese occupying a small town near the mouth of the Amur River below Khabarovsk. Japanese arrogance and brutality aroused the Russian populace to the extent that they rose up and attached the Japanese garrison and the Japanese shelled the town form destroyers in the river.
They had long coveted a foothold on the Asiatic mainland and fully expected, on the strength of their 80,000 or so troops and their ranking generals (coupled with the chaotic Russian situation), to take over completely. General Graves, backed by our State Department, and our troops completely frustrated their expectations. The Japanese must have derived some satisfaction to wipe out the 31st Infantry later at Bataan and Corregidor. . . We did not get along with them. . .They were not particularly friendly. . .We got along with them when necessary but had little to do with them. . .The Japanese camp was next to use at Beresovka. . .The Japanese were smuggling snow (dope), which is a drug, in order to weaken the Russians. Some of our boys took the drug and almost went out of their minds. . .The supply train would arrive and the Japanese would attack it and then they would blame it on the Bolsheviks. . .The Japanese were flooding Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Harbin, Nikolsk and so forth with cocaine. Every week the whole city of Vladivostok would seem to be at the docks waiting for the dope shit from Japan. The Russians called it snek (snow) and those who were addicts were called snow birds. . .They were very exclusive and not very friendly. . .The Japanese were with us at all times. Sometimes they were friendly and sometimes they were mean. We handled them okay. . .We were warned before landing that the Japanese were friends, but the Japanese had the idea that some day they would have to take us. We were only 7,000; They had at times more than ten times that. . .Their men were constantly being moved from one end to the other of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. . .
They were there and the Russians would spit every time they would hear the name. . .Very uncooperative. . .Japanese army units behaved as though they meant to stay in Eastern Siberia permanently. . .there were many misunderstandings with them and near clashes of firing with live ammunition. . .Japs were in the same town as us at times. . .Practically all the Allies had taken representation in Siberia: Italians, English, French, etc. We got along good with all of them. . .The only beer we could get was from (ILLEGIBLE TEXT, CUT OFF) For awhile General Otani was our commander too. . .Didn’t cooperate with us. Broke some of our supplies at the railway, “so sorry”. . .I guess the 27th Infantry had more trouble with the Japanese than anyone. . .They were kind and friendly. . .We hated them. . .In spite of an agreement to send a much smaller number the Japanese swarmed in to the tune of 80,000. They took care to bring in generals with greater seniority than any of the other Allies, and appeared ready to seize and take over as much of the Siberian terrain as they could, which they had long coveted. . .They were kept in line principally by General Grave. . .Friction was constant with them and developed on occasion to near battle status. . .They were uncooperative and dictatorial. . .One Japanese general complained to General Graves that the Japanese always came out second best in endurance and speed in marching, and General Graves is said to have told him it was a matter of difference in diet. This is said to have resulted in a drastic change in Japanese dietary requirements. . .
At the time of the Gaida revolution (November 1919) American and Japanese details, with about the same distance to go, were alerted and made forced marches to the scene of the uproar. The American patrol under command of Lt. George Woods, a long time army veteran, arrived first and had the situation in hand before the Japanese got there, much to their discomforture. . .
The Japanese were billeted in some buildings across the street from us. Some of the Americans had run-ins with the Japanese. . .What our purpose was I never did fully understand. There was supposed to have been a contingent of two regiments from each of the Allied nations, U.S., Canada, France, Italy, Britain and Japan. The Japanese, however, sent at least ten times what we did.
Although we fraternized to certain extent with the soldiers there was a certain undercurrent of animosity between us. . .There is one thing I do remember, they could never understand why the American soldier always went downtown, or anywhere else in his off duty time without a side arm, either a pistol or a bayonet. They weren’t long in finding out. After a few of them were knocked out with a stiff right or left hook, they didn’t ask any more questions. . .My company went with the Japanese from Ussari to Blagovestchensk. . .No one liked them. . .
One day in a sporting house a stampede in trying to get out of the house; some dived through the windows, others between the legs of our sailors. Our sailors had told them previously that if they were ever caught in our territory their throats would be slashed. . .I was attracted to a huge Japanese officer in a picture, as I had never seen a Jap that large in Japan or anywhere else. I don’t think there could be two like him anywhere in the Japanese army. He must have been the general that dealt our boys so much misery in World War II. . .
It was not any surprise to any of us years after when they bombed Pearl Harbor. That was what they did to the Russians in the Russo-Japanese war. History has a way of repeating itself and that subject seems to have been neglected in our military schools, prior to Pearl Harbor. . .We were not allowed to look into the Japanese trainloads in Siberia.
Once in Harbin we were not allowed and when our representative asked what was on the train (it was obviously troops) the reply from the Japanese officer was “Corsets for the Russian women.”. . .There was seething unrest amongst the people of Vladivostok and Khabarovsk against the Japanese and they did not miss a chance to take a toll.
Once, during the Intervention, I arrived in a little town about 13 miles south of Khabarovsk. There were a number of Japanese stationed there. Early in the morning the Bolsheviks moved in. When we arrived all the Japanese were dead in their cars, on their porches and inside their stations. . .They were cruel. . .They never buried the enemy dead, only their own. . .They pillaged, raped and stole as they went through Siberia. . .They were courteous and helpful. . . Once they saved my life, for this I am extremely grateful. . .They were crude and deceitful. . .
The Japanese would send men home and then send new ones back to Siberia so they had fresh blood there constantly. . .Everywhere we went we saw the flag of Japan. With the exception of a few towns and bridges guarded exclusively by the Americans, the Japanese troops were always present. . .They stayed there long after we left for home.
A New Year’s greeting card mailed in 1922 from Manchuria is evidence of this. It had four red characters, used as a frank for soldiers in the field. . .We found not only soldiers but agents and merchants everywhere. . .Some of the Japanese were in civilian clothes but worked for the military.”

As the Americans observed the ever-present Japanese and as they watched the grinning coolies and heard about the war prisoners that were at large, they had concerns about what would face them beyond Vladivostok.

The prisoners quartered in Vladivostok were put under the control of the Americans almost from the start of the arrival of American troops.

– The POW’s –

The men of the 31st Infantry, Company K, were ill at ease when they were assigned to guard the POWs at the Base of Supplies. Some of the Americans dug up ancient grindstones with which they sharpened their bayonets. They were not anxious to take any changes with the “Heinies.” As for the prisoners, they looked on an mumbled to themselves.

They were not sure of the situation either. The Czechs had warned the prisoners that the Yanks were a tough bunch and “might decide to bump them off.” Company K lined up the apprehensive Germans and Austrians for count and ordered them to proceed to one of the large locomotive warehouses which was to be their permanent home. It took some persuasion with bayonets before the prisoners were finally herded in the night. The POWs were not sure of what would happen to them once they got inside. Many had already spent years in Siberia and if their lives were to end in a mass execution they seemed determined to put up a fight.
After getting them in and posting the sentries, the Americans prepared an adjoining warehouse for their own quarters and then fell in line for chow, “good ole army stew, coffee and bread.” It grew cold early in the evening. That night the straw beds felt good to the men; they were much better than the hard canvas bunks of transport. They had been in Siberia for only a few hours and already they had accomplished much, seen much and were exhausted. Harry Rohrer, the Prison Sergeant, noted that the prisoners soon realized that the Americans were not intent on executing them. Corporals Rhoades and Cubbs were Rohrer’s assistants.
Captain William H. Crow was the Prison Officer. Two prisoners were detailed as bookkeepers and two as interpreters. Rohrere’s duties included the handling of all work details and the administering to and the disciplining of prisoners. He recorded: “It didn’t take those German prisoners long to find out that the Americans were human and that they would be treated kindly as long as they obeyed orders. They were each issued a Helen Gould Field Cot, straw and blankets. They were put on regular army rations and allowed to make themselves as comfortable as possible. Then the POWs were organized into companies and each company knew just what was expected of it. The men built a massive kitchen and detailed their own cooks and helpers and had their own quartermasters and supply sergeants.”
The prison personnel included skilled mechanics. Soon the prisoners had their own shops for tailors, shoemakers, barbers, watchmakers and general repairmen. There were several artists among them as well as cabinetmakers and toymakers. The craftsmen occupied their spare time at their trades and sold their wares to the American soldiers, officers and civilians. The American doughboy was a ready purchaser.
Each prisoner was paid one dollar for each day he worked. Deductions were made for their rations, clothing, tobacco, etc. The prisoners were provided skilled medical attention and an army surgeon was on duty at all times.
Although they were given every reasonable comfort, rigid discipline was maintained. Rohrer recalled that his chief worry was keeping the Austrians and the Germans from fighting among themselves!
At the beginning the prisoners were directed to prepare the warehouses for permanent quarters. Some were detailed to unload the transports and others to fill in the pits of the warehouses after which heavy planking was laid for floors. Latrines were built. Kitchens were set up.
Prisoners were detailed to repair and to build roads. Still others began to clean the Russian barracks which would be used as troop quarters. These old barracks had formerly been used as hospitals and refugee shelters, but were so filthy that it took days to restore them to a state fit for occupancy. When this task was finally completed, the 31st moved from the Base of Supplies into the renovated quarters.
Regarding the state of the POWs, General Graves was to say later that the miserable conditions were brought to the attention of the American officials. He added: “A committee of one officer from each of the Allies here was appointed to draw up a scheme under which we could take charge and care for them. Five hundred were taken by us. We assumed the first full care and responsibility of these men. Later the number was increased to 521. They do all of the work at the Base including discharging of the transports, reclamation work, etc. and are paid under authority paragraph 65, Rules of Land Warfare, $1.00 per day for actual number of days worked. The cost of maintenance for actual days worked was charged against them. This labor has been very satisfactory and has enabled us to discharge the transports with a minimum of time and a maximum of speed.”
Bill Mason recalled seeing one prisoner who came to the barracks and took pictures of the men who wanted them. “Billy Witcraft and I had ours taken,” he (ILLEGIBLE TEXT)…we got a dozen, he took 6 and I took 6.”
Paul Bencoe was on the other side of the fence; he was himself a prisoner of war and had been from 1916. He recalled that “at irregular intervals a fellow prisoner would talk through the door and yell in Hungarian the equivalent of “Mail” and would read off the names of the lucky ones who would get letters. Then he would hand them their mail from home. Mail sent to us POWs had to be deposited at a designated collection place in camp. Both incoming and outgoing mail was censored. I believe, but an not sure, that the International Red Cross had something to do with the POW mail. That is all I can recall after all these years.”

If some of the Americans had heeded their parents’ advice to keep diaries we would have had a better record than we do of events. Ralph Baggs’ father wrote to his son on August 14th at New York and advised: “Keep a diary of events. It will be extremely interesting to you in you later life and will tend to refresh your memory.” Unfortunately, Baggs paid no heed. Baggs’ dad also advised: “I don’t suppose your letters will be censored from that quarter of the glove, so you may write us fully of what is going on.”Unfortunately, letters were censored and, whatever Baggs may have written has now passed into obscurity for there is not a trace of any of his mail from Siberia to the States. Thus we have no record of his thoughts in those long dreary months in Siberia. We do have mail to him and note the patriotic fervor in that mail and in the mail to and from other men. Censorship during WWII, the Korean War and our involvement in Vietnam has deprived the world of much documentary history. As the years recede we are to be compelled to rely on “official reports” by those who are not permitted to present the whole story.

The mother of Ralph Baggs wrote to her son: “To think that my boy was going so far off and I was not there to wish him good luck and a safe journey. I am sure he will succeed for you have the right feelings and will try, as you have doe ever since you gave your best efforts to the United States, when you made up your mind that you wanted to help your country and make it safe to live in. God bless you my boy.”
As more and more Americans and their allies poured into the city of Vladivostok they continued to be staggered by the strange metropolis. As the months wore on they learned more and more about The Mistress of the East, the prettily situated capital of the Maritime Province.
Vladivostok is situated on the slope of a coastal range between the Amur Gulf at the southwest extremity of a peninsula between the Amur Gulf on the west and the Ussuri Gulf on the east. The magnificent harbor which was formed by the bay of the Golden Horn on the western and northern sides had created a city that seemed to slumber in beauty.
Founded in 1860, Vladivostok was a free port from 1865 to 1909. At the time of the arrival of the Americans it had a population of some 100,000, consisting mostly of foreigners of many nations. The Chinese had the larges population. Then there were Koreans, Japanese and Germans. The cost of living was high but life itself seemed cheap.
Vladivostok was the largest and chief port of the Russian Far East. It was the terminus for the Trans-Siberian Railway and was the Russian Naval Base on the Pacific. It may still be that. Visitors are not encouraged.
The main street of Vladivostok, Svetlanskaya, ran east and west. Not far from the Golden Horn, it was crossed by a railway. To the south were found the Municipal Garden and the Museum. On the north side was a monument and farther to the east was another. The Greek Orthodox Church and a Lutheran Church were also in this vicinity. It seemed strange to the Americans to learn that there was a Lutheran Church in Siberia until they learned of the influx of Germans into the area.
From the heights above the Observatory, a breathtaking view presented itself. Other landmarks included the Roman Catholic Church, the Oriental Institute, the Kunst and Albers Department Store and restaurants such as the Zolotoi Rog (Golden Horn), the American Grille and the Railway Station Restaurant.
An electric tramway ran from the railway station along Svetlanskaya Street. This was the cause of much jest. Called the “Toonerville Trolley”, the Americans had much to say about overcrowding and thievery on the street car. It was about half the size of an ordinary trolley and ran” when it was not being repaired and if there was power.”
Every trip seemed to include pickpockets. McQuiddy recalled the time he was with his friend, Private Libby, who had his wallet lifted. He knew who the culprit was so waited for the latter to get off, then followed him and knocked him cold with one on the chin and retrieved his property.” There lay the man on the cobblestones and as McQuiddy and Libby walked from the scene they imagined that the gathering spectators might wonder about those Americans who seemed so adept with their fists.
The market place of Vladivostok fascinated the Americans. Everyone appeared to gather there to buy, sell or just gossip. The bazaars were market parliaments. Here the city and country dwellers could meet to discuss war, politics, Bolsheviks, propaganda, policies of the Allies, cost of food or anything else. Rumors as well as pamphlets were circulated at the bazaars.
In retrospect, the Americans had mixed feelings about life as they came to know it in Vladivostok. At the time of the first arrivals in August and early September of 1918 the climate had been most a agreeable. In winter the bay was icebound from the middle of December to the beginning of March and sea communication was difficult except by use of icebreakers. In the winter the highways were frozen and during the ensuing fall the mud became intolerable. However, there were lovely nights when one could hear the tantalizing music from the boats in the bay.
Beautiful as the Americans found the scenery upon their arrival, they were surprised to find almost no trees in evidence. The hills around Vladivostok were barren except for low brush. A few small parks dotted the city and these had benches upon which the soldiers could meditate or fight off romantically minded local girls.
One American stated that he found Siberia a wonderful land with good soil, fine grass and the best timber. There was also a surprising amount of minerals, as well as game and fish. The resources of Siberia were incalculable, needing only the wherewithal to make them available.
The consensus of opinion was that the people in Vladivostok lived “a very crowded life.” There were few modern improvements or facilities. Filth was everywhere. Food and clothing were difficult to obtain; soap was almost nonexistent and water had to be carried in buckets. There were no toilets in the homes; each city had a public toilet which everyone used and which discharged into the open. The lack of plumbing, the drabness and the poverty depressed some of the Americans. Yet others spoke of the beauty. The buildings were described as “beautiful but ancient looking. . .They were of European style.” Most of the buildings were so old that they gave forth an air of stability, an air in contrast to conditions. “I found the city romantic,” one soldier remarked, “magnificent native costumes with an amazing culture amongst some of the people. Yet the terror of Bolshevism was grasping the people when we arrived and the lust for blood was in evidence everywhere.” As for the Bay, that was a jewel, sparkling in the sun. The Golden Horn was the magnificent entrance to the harbor. Surely this was a land of sharp contrasts.
Many of the Americans did not sense the culture of this land; they saw only poverty and stagnation. “We found the cobblestones odd. They were not square like ours but egg-shaped field stones of oval type. They made me feel as though we were walking on eggs.”
The oddly numbered residences in the city and strange construction of those just beyond aroused the wonder of many Americans. “There were a great many wooden dwellings on the outskirts which invariably had a door high in a gable with a ladder leading down. It looked to me as though they wanted an emergency exit in case of deep snow. But as I never saw snow over 18 inches I am not sure I was right about this,” were the comments of one soldier.
Most homes and stores were illuminated by oil lamps and candles. Because of fear and uncertainty, few people ventured out by night. An American soldier, Jesse Sale, decided to visit the main railway station one evening. He found it was off limits until the premises had been cleaned. Even after this had taken place, Sale remarked that he saw lice crawling up the door casings and the place looked dirty as a coal bin. Sale added that all the cities were “pretty run down and dirty.” On the other hand, John Souhrada of the 31st observed that “considering their limitations the cities were pretty, clean and rather well set up.”
In most cities the wealthy and the poor rubbed elbows in the stores and in the market places. In Vladivostok those accustomed to western culture were amazed to note that local authorities had made little or no effort to tidy up the streets. While there were elegant clubs and eating places, it was not unusual to see a dead animal or even a dead man lying on the streets, sometimes for days before the forms were shoveled away. “I have seen well dressed men and women stepping right over a corpse, scattering the flies in every direction: was a comment of one doughboy.
Youthful and eager to see everything new, the Americans enjoyed watching quaint customs, bawdy scenes any novelties that came their way.
Julian Sheppard of Texas was enthralled by the majestic horses he saw in Siberia. He had spent a good deal of time on a ranch back at home but admitted he had never seen horses to match the ones the Cossacks rode. Sheppard who was with the 27th, Co. K, was born in Llano County, Texas on March 18, 1895. His dad was a farmer and a cowboy and his older brothers were cowhands who performed splendid feats on horseback. Young Julian aspired to follow in their stirrups, but it was not to be. He was never to be a cowboy. He wandered off and found himself in Pailes Valley, Oklahoma when the country went to war in 1917. Sheppard enlisted and was sent to Fort Logan, Colorado on November 17th and went on to Angel Island, California to join the 27th Infantry. He left for Vladivostok on the UST CROOK arriving there on August 15, 1918.
In retrospect Sheppard remarked, “Today my Siberian trip all seems like a dream to me. but I do recall meeting Czecho-Slovaks there. They had been captured in the town where we were stationed and there were a good many prisoners there too. There was a parade, I recall that too. We marched through the town and realized that those silent movie cameras were grinding away and taking pictures of us! Not long afterwards I was on my way to Khabarovsk, and for the first time in my whole life I saw a dead soldier. It was not a good feeling.”
Sheppard saw more than cowboys in Siberia. He saw great tall men called Cossacks with magnificent dexterity on beautiful horses. These horses were better than his brothers had ever ridden. And the Cossacks were better than his brothers when in the saddle. Sheppard was anxious to get back to his old home town area taking up residence in Brownwood where he was able to brag about horses and horsemanship he had witnessed in far-off Siberia.
Paul R. Coleman of Company B, 27th Infantry, recalled that they stayed on the transport until quarters were found for them and said that they were pretty annoyed by the whole deal and wondered who was responsible for overlooking to make proper arrangements for quartering the Americans.
Coleman had enlisted in Ohio and was sent to Texas as early as 1914. He recalled vaguely that as he traveled through Texas a today wave had destroyed a whole city in 1915. He had been ordered to the Philippines by way of the Canal Zone. When he arrived at Colon a landslide had closed the Culebra Cut and trains could not get through to the Canal; the men had been transferred to some barracks at Empire for three or four months until another transport was sent from San Francisco to pick them up. The Americans occupied the transport for 30 days on the route via Honolulu and Japan, landing at the Philippine Islands where they were sent to Los Banos. Just at that time a public figure was hanged on the parade ground. It was on the spot where Coleman had formerly played baseball. He was there for a couple of years and then he was ordered to Manila where he received orders to go to Siberia. Already he had seen so much of the world including tidal waves, landslides, and public hangings that he was not too surprised at what he encountered in Vladivostok. He admitted he had not known of the chaotic state of the city until he saw it at first hand.
One of the peculiarities that struck the Americans in Vladivostok was the manner in which houses were numbered. Apparently numbers were assigned in the order in which structures were built; there was absolutely no system or regularity. If one wanted to find an address and managed to locate the street it was well nigh impossible to locate the house without a door-to-door search. To add to the confusion many houses were completely devoid of any numbers!
Signs over stores continued to intrigue each new arrival. The men said that they yearned to compare the contents of the shops with what the trade pictures indicated.
James Whitehead of the RRSC recalled talking about the problem of warm clothing for the men. “I had dinner with Major Miller of the regulars, and with a Baron who promised to see what he could do to get furs for overcoat linings.”
In a letter to his wife Whitehead wrote: “It would take a lot of heavy clothes to keep the troops warm in the coming winter, especially as they were used to tropical climate.” He added that the RRSC had a fair supply of warm clothes which would be satisfactory if they were not stolen. “Bolsheviks break in and steal,: he wrote. “Some of them got into our baggage room. They stole two trunks and several bags belonging to our men. A cop caught one little fellow with a trunk and a bag bigger than himself on his back. He hit him hard with his sword and then asked him where he was going. Then they caught two others, but two bags were never recovered.”
Ralph Fletcher was so concerned about the coming cold that he wrote to his wife asking her to hurry with winter wherewithal. He wrote: “Darling if war spares me and you wish to see me again send me some wool clothes: heavy socks, drawers, sleeping garments and gloves. Get them from the Red Cross if possible, if not buy them. . .I have none and they are absolutely necessary. . .we will have to winter in a climate of 30 below zero and it is cold here now.
“We are living in a war element. Uniforms of many nations and armed bodies of men are everywhere. soldiers are being rushed out in trains during the day and the wounded are already being brought in at night. The toll is heavy. The work is hard but we are glad to do our bit in the greatest conflict among men that has occurred in this old world.”
Fletcher continued with these remarks: “This is a wonderful country and everything here is on a big scale. We are living in tents now and are in the midst of the grimness of war, that terrible destroyer. Armed men of many nations, bugle calls, etc., etc. . .The other regiment (the 27th) is on the line now and we are expecting to go any time.”
Leo Fifer of the 31st recalled that he landed in Vladivostok on August 21st and noted in his diary that it was “one hell of a country.” They went into camp on the 22nd and on the 24th he wrote: “Working very hard every day now. Country no better. Sure is some place and some people. A mixture of Russians, Koreans, Chinese, Japs, Polish and others. . .”
Malcolm Currie of Mercer Island, Washington was a member of Company A, 31st Infantry. He arrived on August 22nd and told of an incident that was hushed up quickly. He related that the Senior CO of the Allied forces at the time was a Japanese and that the General Headquarters was guarded by Japanese soldiers. Currie described the incident in this manner: “An American messenger went to deliver a message to the CO and was denied admission, probably because of the language barrier. The American tried to go past the Japanese and in the scuffle the American got struck by the Japanese bayonet. The American then pulled his pistol and shot the Japanese soldier. Whether he killed him or not I do not know, but it was said that this caused the American Expeditionary Force to set up its own Headquarters and I know the incident was hushed up fast.”
Writing home on August 23rd, Whitehead stated that one of their own men was now lolling after their mail. He said he had five minutes to write, was well, and that the RRSC was “slowly getting under way and would probably go to work any day.” He closed his letter with “the man who looks after our mail now is waiting so must close.” But he had time to add: “Things of a very interesting nature, and important, too, are happening and it looks like this will be some place after all. Don’t worry. . .there is no danger now and I cannot foresee any. Some of us are still in Vladivostok and some others went west.”
At this time Russian Railway Service Corps was being dispatched, in groups of three or four, to divisions and repair points and to junctions to become familiar with the road and with Russian procedures; also to help the Russians where they could, particularly with the Baldwin eight-wheeled freight engines of which there were a considerable number. Some of the Americans went as far inland as the border of European Russia. They performed valuable service, often in precarious situations. According to Corpsman L.D. Yates they had been recruited to take over the Trans-Siberian Railway; there were men who were expert in all categories of railroad repair, operation and maintenance.
Prior to the arrival of the American railroaders the situation was considered deplorable. Some 826 bridges had been blown up by one or another of the participants in the civil war and this included the 420-foot bridge over the Amur River at Khabarovsk which could not be replaced during the stay of the AEF in Siberia. It was not until 1922 that the bridge was restored.
In addition there were 20 railway stations and 14 water supply stations that had been blown up. There was no accurate estimate of how much trackwork had been demolished or removed. It has been considered that all railway delays, whether caused by partisans or their opponents, played a major role in bringing about the eventual defeat of Admiral Kolchak and his supporters.
Although consisting of numerous warring factions, all Siberians had the common purpose of preventing the return of a Czarish regime. Numerous dictatorships, directorates and other governments were constantly appearing. Each told the populace that it would be best for them.
At the time the Americans were preparing so seriously in the Philippines and in the States during July and August, 1918 the Czecho-Slovak forces had already abandoned their efforts to withdraw from Eastern Russian and from Siberia, in spite of the fact that the Americans were proposing to rescue them! Colonel Styer became aware of this situation upon his arrival.
The Czecho-Slovaks had established themselves in association with non-Red elements along the Trans-Siberian Railway from Ekaterinburg to Vladivostok. Gaida, the Czech leader, had planned a drive eastward from Irkutsk but had been gradually slowed during August by the Bolshevik and POW forces which were scurrying down the Amur Valley destroying facilities as they went. Along the way the latter increased their numbers and made for Blagovestchensk.
General Mikhail Kontstantinovich Dietrichs, head of the Priamur Government, had made a drive northward from Vladivostok. After the enemy had been defeated further advance had been halted when he had reached Shmakovka on the Amur River. This movement had taken place on August 3rd and 4th.
Styer was also to learn that Washington had been advised of the current situation that prevailed. Officials there had been notified that the situation was most fluid. Instead of getting the Czecho-Slovaks home, the following recommendations were submitted:
1) It was wise to assist the Czechs in attempting to control the railroad
2) War activities of prisoners of war must be halted
3) A front should be established in Eastern Russian against possible Austro-German military activity
4) There should be retention of as much anti-Bolshevik government as possible in hopes that an anti-Bolshevik army could be organized and a non-Bolshevik government could be created.
Huge quantities of materials belonging to the American and European powers had been piled up at Vladivostok and had become the source of great concern. The fear that these supplies might fall into the hands of the Central Powers still persisted. The only protection for those stores was supplied by the presence of Allied Warships. The USS BROOKLYN, HMS SUFFOLK, the Japanese ships ASAHI and IWANI, and the Chinese cruiser HAI YUNG maintained a watchful eye over these stores.
Shortly after the Czecho-Slovaks obtained control of Vladivostok in June, General Dietrichs began his participation in the general plan of the Czech campaign b moving north toward Khabarovsk. Nikolsk was captured after a brisk engagement on July 4th, and as previously noted, wounded Czecho-Slovaks from that battle were cared for in a hospital established by the USS BROOKLYN. Further advance by Dietrichs’ troops ended in failure.
Proceeding north from Nikolsk, the Czechs defeated Bolshevik forces on July 16th at Spasskoe and pursued them as far as the line of the Ussuri River where the Czechs took advantage of a strong natural position to await reinforcements from Khabarovsk. In this position the Czechs were attacked by superior numbers. Beginning on August 1st, the Bolsheviks drove the Czechs back south of Shmakovka where the latter halted, reinforced by the arrival of Ataman Kalmikov with some 800 cossacks. A fairly strong position was established with a force of 2500 troops between the two branches of Belaya Creek with headquarters at Kraevski.
While the engagements of August 1st to 4th were in progress, the United States government, followed by the governments of Great Britain, France, Japan and China, issued the proclamation in which the policy of the respective governments was stated with regard to the Russian Intervention.
It may be recalled that August 3rd was also the date on which orders were sent from Washington directing the troop movements to Vladivostok. On this day also, in view of the situation of the Czecho-Slovaks at Shmakovka, 800 British troops arrived and started for the Ussuri front. On August 9th these were followed by 1200 French and on the 11th by about 3000 Japanese troops.
The assistance from these detachments enabled the Czecho-Slovaks to hold their position until groups could be organized under one command and strengthened sufficiently to assume the offensive. This consolidation was barely effected when the first American troops began to enter Vladivostok.
At the time of the arrival of the Americans no stable government existed nor was law and order in evidence. A considerable portion or the population was composed of Bolsheviks, bandits, political and other convicts.
As mentioned elsewhere, during the monarchy Siberia had been a dumping ground for convicts and political prisoners and also for the criminals from European Russia. The latter were often crude, vicious cut-throats whereas the political prisoners included the intelligentsia, the well-educated who had been too free in expressing their views.
Most of the convicts had made their way to Vladivostok because the city offered a port from which escape was possible. Most of the political prisoners also chose Vladivostok in order to be in a cosmopolitan city. The criminal element expected to make a living by robbing the newly-arrived Allied soldiers. On the other hand, the political prisoners welcomed the new arrivals, for a new social awareness was opened in their relationships with other men with related schooling and background.
As each Allied unit arrived, it had its own military police force. This was limited in scope as an American MP could not arrest or caution any but Americans, a Japanese MP could deal only with Japanese, and so on. As a result, an International Military Police Force was set up. This remarkable body took hold of the situation under the able direction of Major Samuel I. Johnson only a few weeks after the arrival of the first troops.
The Allied officers were not long in discovering that problems in Siberia could not all be observed on the surface. There were numerous Russian factions to be contended with; and there were our so-called allies, the Japanese. The latter proved more difficult and troublesome to deal with than the partisans.
Although the national quotas were not to exceed 10,000 men, the Japanese sent troops well in advance of that figure. The estimate varied from 70,000 to over 100,000. Some of the Americans maintained that Japan sent civilians who were actually military personnel. This made it difficult to keep count. Discord developed early regarding the size of the Japanese contingent.
Two days after Col. Styer had been informed that Gen. Kikuz Otani was commander in chief of all Allied armies, Otani was officially designated by the Japanese government to command the Japanese expedition to Siberia. By virtue of his grade he was senior to any of the other commanding generals. Consequently, soon after landing, he fortified the statement made to Styer with the following communication which was addressed to the Allied Armies:
“I have the honor to inform you that I have been appointed Commander of the Japanese Army at Vladivostok by his Majesty, The Emperor of Japan, and that I am entrusted unanimously by the Allied Powers with the Command of the Armies in the Russian Territory of the Far East. The cooperation and the friendship between our Armies will easily permit, from the point of view of their command, of rapidity of action and of success without any difficulty. I hope with all my heart that our Armies will work together for the command aim.”
(Signed) General Otani Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies

The first group of American soldiers to arrive was not long in Vladivostok before the crowds began to swell in Svetlanskaya Street. Hamor B. Scott had met many people; he had worked hard before reaching Siberia. He was born in 1882 and was orphaned in 1887. Thereafter he lived where he could with numerous families. Scott joined the army in 1911 and found himself in Siberia in 1918. He did not recall too much trouble upon his arrival but remembers vividly that the American and British troops were handed leaflets when they arrived. The leaflets read:
“We take it for granted that this is a word of welcome and warning to the American and British forces landing in Siberia. We take it for granted that you have landed here on Russian soil with no hostile intentions to the Russian people that you could be of some help to the distressed Russian people and in this we thank you and bid you welcome. Your machine guns and your artillery should not and must not be turned on the peasants in order to strangle the majority of the Russian people. ~”The Friends of the Russian Revolution.”

The Americans soon found that there were sights beyond those of Vladi’s muddy streets. Some of the men had wandered over to the Bathing Beach, just as the RRSC men had done previously. There before their eyes was a multitude of people — men, women and children, enjoying the bathing, all in the nude. As this news spread there soon was a large audience of Americans at Vladivostoks beaches.

The public baths also aroused surprise. Lester Ade stated that the first bath he had had in the city took place six days after arrival. “Another fellow and I ordered one in a bath house,” he reported, “and we had cold water from a shower, two large bath towels, soap and the use of a spacious, comfortable dressing room for about six rubles each, which was about 65 cents in our money. There was also a marble slab sofa in the bathroom and women attendants were to be had if desired, but we took things in the usual American way.”
Some Americans were too busy to see the sights. As we have seen, the Engineers were most occupied. They remained in Vladivostok until November 3rd busy with the tracing and transliteration of various Russian staff maps of the territory occupied by the American troops. The maps indicated the location of the American troops. Sundry smaller tracings were made for various departments.
The Intelligence Division arrived on the SHERIDAN on August 21st. This contingent consisted of 16 members of the Military Intelligence Division, Washington, and 15 Army Field Clerks. The latter had been specially selected and dispatched with a view to the possible need for a large intelligence section to work with the Expedition. The nucleus of the Intelligence Section had arrived with the first troops on August 15th and 16th and consisted of five officers, one of who was an engineer. Fifty-one enlisted men selected from the Philippine organization, a detachment of 18 enlisted men of the Engineer Corps and a detachment of 18 enlisted men of the Signal Corps were ready for service. From the start their work was coordinated to the establishment of relations with the intelligence officers of the Allied forces.
Almost at once the Intelligence Division made an inspection of the whole field of action northward and eastward to the hills. Careful observation was made of the trenches, field of fire, shell holes and location of the dead (still largely unburied). An opportunity for further observation of the terrain was given by a reconnaissance made on August 28th and 30th by an intelligence officer and three enlisted men on motorcycles. They went as far north as the town of Ussuri.
A detachment from the Intelligence Section was attached to Col. Charles Morrow who was in charge of the 27th Infantry. Included were Lt. Skladal, a detachment of interpreters, engineers and signal men. They were to secure information and communications in the field.
When the 31st Infantry arrived at Vladivostok a tent camp was established in Gornastaya Valley, just east of the city. Detachments were immediately deployed along the Ussuri Railway Line taking strong tactical positions at Nadezhdinskaya, Kiparisova, Ugolnaya, Pervai Rechka and other small railway towns.
In addition to the Japanese and the Chinese, the British and the French were also in Vladivostok in August. On the 21st K.C. Lin, Commodore of the Chinese Navy, sent a letter to Col. Styer. Written aboard the R.C.S. HAI YUNG at Vladivostok, it stated:
“I have the honor to inform you that in a few days the Chinese troops may be expected to arrive in Vladivostok by railroad. I have the honor to be, Sir, Your Obedient Servant,
K.C. Lin, Commander C.N.”

Ironically, on the same date, First Lt. Herrick of the 27th Infantry sent word to Major Buck out on the line that: “Civilian messenger reports about 400 Chinese bandits now about seven verst from here marching on this place, armed with rifles and one pound machine guns. Send reinforcements and machine guns as soon as possible.”

Events were crowding one upon the other, and news was pouring into Vladivostok. An Edict given by the Staff at the front and signed jointly by Gaida, Pepeloff and Bagoslovsky at Verkhne-Udinsk on August 21st soon reached Vladivostok.
“Edict on the Cossack Troops of Enisey:
“In the troublesome times during the sovereignty of the Bolsheviks, when by the latter, acting as tools in the hands of the Germans, all rights of the free Russian people were trampled under feet, when, without consideration of public good, the Bolsheviks were selling Russia to Germany, you, brave Cossacks of Enisey, did not take part in this deceit, but conducted yourselves as faithful sons of your mother country.
“Deprived of your rights, deprived of the opportunity to protest, with heartaches you were compelled to look on while the Bolsheviks were robbing and leading our native country to ruin. The greater force was on their side, and you were unable to do anything.
“The patience of the Russian people is now exhausted and all Siberia, in order to shake off the shameful yoke of Bolshevism, as one man awoke to action. You, brave Cossacks of Enisey, were one of the first to join the new Siberian Army and notwithstanding that formerly you consisted of only a regiment, you are now in full division in strength. This effort will not be overlooked by your mother country. And then, valiant Cossacks of Enisey, immediately after your formation, took the field together with the young Siberian Army and brotherly troops of the Czecho-Slovak, and on the shores of Baikal won the victory which forevermore banished the fear of Bolshevik ascendancy. At the height of the fight together with the Bolshevik troops, you proved yourselves worthy descendants of the brave Cossacks of Enisey, when you, without meditation surrendered your life for the Liberty of Russia, and conducted yourselves as loyal sons of the mother country.
“The memory of your heroic action on the shores of Baikal will be cherished by your country and the glory with which you are covering yourselves in this painful time of the deliverance of our suffering Native Country, will be handed down from generation to generation.
(Signed) Colonel Gaida
Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Front
Colonel Pepeloff
Commander of the Middle Siberian Corps
Colonel Bagoslovsky
Chief of Staff of the Eastern Front,
General Staff of the Army.”

On Saturday, August 25th there was stir of excitement in Vladivostok. Gen. Dmitri L. Horvath, General Manager of the Chinese Eastern Railway, ordered all Russian subjects to report for duty to fight to the end against the Germans and the Bolsheviki. He set himself up as Dictator of All Russia.

The attempt of Horvath to alter the city government gave Vladivstok the appearance of a besieged city. The consul of Allied Diplomats stated that the Russians could not be armed and it threatened to take Horvath a prisoner if he insisted on arming anyone.
Hundreds of Czecho-Slovaks, Americans and Japanese were guarding the streets to check any disturbance which might have arisen as a result of Horvath’s announcement. There was some concern in the Officers’ Quarters; however, beyond some slight excitement, no violence resulted.
On the following day, August 26th, the men of the 27th Infantry who were still in the city had much to occupy themselves. They were assigned 28 head or horses and 186 mules. Civilian Farrier Humphries accompanied the stock. The balance of the latter was assigned to the 31st Infantry Field Hospital #4 and the Ambulance Company #4. Additional shipments were made later to the 27th Infantry at Spasskoe and Khabarovsk.
As the men were departing from Vladivostok for sites along the line, those remaining in the city pondered as to when they would see their buddies again. Lt. Colonel G.H. Williams was detached for duty as Commander at the Base of Vladivostok and Captain R.E. Wallace for duty on the Line of Communications.
In town the doughboys visited the Golden Horn Care, the American Grille and similar places where they were able to chat with the local inhabitants and those Allies already in Vladivostok.
At first the natives were suspicious, but with the passing of August 1918 they found the Americans were friendly and meant them no harm.
The Allies were a diverse group, coming from many parts of the world. Some of the Allied sailors and soldiers seemed alien to the Americans, but as the months wore on the latter became more accustomed to those encountered in and out of Vladivostok.
Those Americans still in the city wondered how much longer they might remain there. Word was awaited from F and G Companies of the 27th Infantry who had been the first to leave the city some two weeks earlier.
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