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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
[iv]Graves
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
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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.
If
(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.
~Amen[xiv]

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.
Sources:
[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

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.

Siberian Sojourn-Volumn II, Chapter 15

October 19, 2010 1 comment

THE SIBERIAN SOJOURN- BOOK TWO

Written By: EDITH M. FAULSTICH

THE SIBERIAN SOJOURN Volume II:  Written By: Edith M. Faulstich (who was my grandmother, Alice M. Fisher)
This work of my grandmother’s is protected by copyright laws, any use for profit thereof or reprint of any kind or use on any medium, social network, brochure, book, reserach article must be fully cited.
 Please, give her the due respect she deserves from the 25 years of selfless research she performed. Faulstich, Edith M. The Siberian Sojourn. [Yonkers, N.Y.]: Faulstich, 19741977. I have taken the time to electronically reprint her unpublished book, except for a very small printing which was provided to the families of the A.E.F soldiers and the select with whom she corresponded.

Please respect the life work and research of my grandmother, who has since passed on.

Forward

Book Two of the “Siberian Sojourn” is a continuation of Book One which was presented in 1974. Both books follow the outline as planned by Edith M. Faulstich prior to her death in 1972.

Book One, in spite of shortcomings, was well received by you veterans and you families. You knew well of the love and devotion with which the work was conceived by Edith. It is my hope that Book Two will be equally well received. I am sure that any shortcomings will again be generously overlooked.

While the story of any historical event can never be fully told, it is felt that something of value has been added to the record of the “Siberian” campaign. It was the intent of Edith that men and women who served would have some small recognition which is so rarely granted in the formal history books.

It is hoped that Edith will be pleased with this presentation. It is hoped that you veterans and your families will approve.

Fred Faulstich
May 22, 1977

Contents

Footnotes to Book Two

Chapter XV Colonel Styer Arrives and Troops Land 1 – 24
Chapter XVI Events to the End of August 1918 25 – 54
Chapter XVII F & G Companies, 27th Infantry Regiment En Route to Sviyagino 55-74
Chapter XVIII The Britis 75 – 90
Chapter XIX The Battle of Kraevski 91 – 98
Chapter XX The 90-Mile March 99 – 120
Chapter XXI General Graves & More Troops Arrive in Vladivostok 121 – 158
Chapter XXII The Americans Settle in at Vladivostok 159 – 208
Chapter XXIII Personnel of the 27th and 31st Regiments Go Full Strength 209 – 221
Footnotes 222 – 226

Chapter XV

Colonel Styer Arrives and Troops Land

Upon the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force, Colonel Henry Styer, who had command of the AEF in Siberia up to the arrival of Major General Graves, paid an official call on Japanese Lieutenant General Oi the Senior Military Officer then present in Valdivostok.

After introductory amenities were over, Styer asked Oi for suggestions as to the best procedure for American cooperation. To the Colonel’s dismay the Japanese general lost no time in stating that General Kikuz Otani of the Imperial Japanese Army had been designated to assume the Supreme Command of all the Allied Siberian Forces “at the request of the American Government.”

Styer was stunned by the impact of this news. American soldiers under the command of a Japanese? This was unheard of. With military dignity he merely indicated that he had not been so advised.

“I suggest,” said Styer, “that concrete plans await the arrival of the Supreme Commander of the American Forces, Major General William S. Graves. He will be here shortly.”
The Japanese retorted that plans could not wait.
It can well be imagined that Styer must have had a few sleepless nights pondering this. He wired Washington at once and asked for specific information regarding command.
When word was received it merely confirmed that Graves would be arriving in Vladivostok shortly. That had not answered his query. Washington’s apparent unwillingness to refute the Japanese announcement left nothing for the Colonel to do but proceed according to General Oi’s instructions until Major General Graves arrived.
Styer designated the names and duties of his staff officers. His official cable to Washington reported that he had with him 1,537 men of the 27th Infantry.
Among the officers were included some OF the staff authorized by the war Department: Colonel James S. Wilson, Chief Surgeon, Major David P. Barrows, Intelligence Officer (with four assistants) and Lieutenant Colonel W.V. Morris who became the Inspector General of the Expedition.
Colonel Styer conferred with Lt. General Yuhi, Chief of Staff representing General Otani and was given a detailed briefing on the general plan of operations. A map of the area was consulted. Styer was told that there were some 15,000 armed enemy in Khabarovsk. Yuhi stated that it would therefore be necessary to strike there first and take that city. They would then proceed west by Amur and Manchuria. There would be 40,000 troops and a long double line of communications to make secure between the Allies and the Czecho-Slovaks if the latter were to be extricated from west of Irkutsk.
Styer had not been briefed on conditions, but he did know that the Czeho-Slovaks were to be helped to get back to Vladivostok. That was part of the mission. But he had no way of knowing that the Japanese exaggerated conditions. He simply assumed that their reports were correct.
Therefore, in special Orders #1 of August 16, 1918 he stated that the Second Battalion was ordered to relieve the Railroad Guards.
Thus it was that American soldiers served under Japanese command from mid-August, 1918 until the arrival of General Graves on September 2, 1918.
Upon his arrival Graves immediately called on General Utani (by that time himself in Vladivostok) and set the record straight with regard to the command of American troops. Graves stated that he and he alone would be in charge of the latter.
Before the arrival of the Commander in Chief, Styer had wired Washington on August 19th to report his meeting with Yuhi. He gave estimates of the situation and plan of operations.
“General Otani stated that in his judgment present forces assigned to the expedition are insufficient to accomplish mission which was and remains solely the extrication of the Czechs west of Irkutsk between whom and us are 40,000 enemy forces and a double line of communications to make secure. The Czechs west of Irkutsk have little ammunition left and are otherwise in pitiable plight, so much so that their relief before winter is imperative if they are to survive. This can only be done in his (Otani’s) opinion by a rapid campaign with augmented forces. He asked the Allied Commanders to so represent to their governments and that they themselves send all forces immediately available and request Japan to send troops at once in sufficient numbers to meet the situation: 5,000 Canadians are en route. Japan has ready many troops. After asking each Commander if and how many of his troops were read to join in advance on Khabarovsk, he stated his intention of ordering an immediate concentration of all available forces and an attack.”
Several days later, on August 21st, Styer set forth General Order #5. It said in part: “This detachment has the distinction of being the first of the American Expeditionary Forces to land in Siberia. Each officer and man has the responsibility to adopting from the start a personal attitude which will help the American objects in uniting their military power to that of our Allies for the defeat of the enemy purpose in Russia. The good name of the United States and the maintenance of cordial relations with the Allied forces and with the Russian people requires perfect deportment of each member of this command. The situation of the Russian people is one that entitles them to our sympathy and consideration. After making great sacrifices and enduring great hardships in the conduct of the war, the Russian people now find their government disorganized in the process of changes started by the revolution and our behavior and attitude must always take this into consideration, so that no one at any time may justly charge any individual American officer or soldier with exploiting or criticizing these conditions. The absence of an efficiently organized civil administration necessitates unusual restraint on the part of all American officers and noncommissioned officers of their military authority to quiet any altercation, misunderstanding or disorder. All members of this Command are enjoined to refrain absolutely from political altercations or unfriendly criticism.”
It was in this Order that Styer also directed the Second Battalion of the 27th Infantry to relieve the railroad guards along the line from Vladivostok to Nikolsk.
In the two weeks that followed, American men were put through an ordeal that none will ever forget. They were forced on rides and marches through terrain and conditions which were unbelievable. They went into skirmishes with a will to win, skirmishes which should not have involved them at all.
It all started in Vladivostok when the exaggerated Japanese reports spurred the Allies into action in accordance with the plans outlined by the Japanese. It was not until some time later that the extent of this exaggeration was realized. Finally it was discovered that heavy reinforcements were not needed for an immediate offensive. Apparently the request for Allied troops was arranged so that the soldiers would arrive after the Japanese had waged their campaign and after they had gained the fruits of victory. But in all the flush of information given to Colonel Styer upon arrival, there had been little else he could have done except to rely upon the Japanese and comply with Otani’s express commands. History had not yet been written and no one could have known at the outset what lay in the vast unknown depth of Siberia; nor that the military situation had been misrepresented.
The Japanese had presented the plight of the Czecho-Slovaks as pitable. Yet at that time the Czechs occupied the banks of the Ussuri River and were supported by the Cossacks, the British and the French. Some Japanese detachments were also there. It became apparent that Japanese actions were motivated by aims of their own rather than by a spirit of cooperation with the Allies.
In addition to the burden of the astounding Japanese demands for American troops to leave Vladivostok, Styer was concerned with the quartering and supplying of his troops. At this point, his men were still aboard the transport.
Styer reviewed the situation with staff officials. Suitable barracks had to be found immediately. There would be a need for storage houses. The possibilities of Vladivostok as a source of supplies for the troops had to be investigated.
The general disorganization must have been most disheartening; it is unlikely that any expedition ever entered a foreign port with so little advance preparation and with so many confusing orders. The town was studied from one end to the other more than once and Colonel Styer wished that General Graves had been able to be with him in all his moments of decision and indecision.
Vladivostok with all its suburbs to the north and east was dotted with barrack groups said to be sufficient for some 70,000 Russian soldiers. This was good news indeed, until it was realized that as far as American soldiers were concerned it would not house that number. The standard cubic air space required for our men was much more than that allotted to Russian military men.
When the American officers visited the barracks they reeled in revulsion. The floors were covered with layers of excrement and filth and the whole was infested with vermin. There was no running water, no sewer system nor any provision for artificial light!
“Good God,” moaned more than one man, “what can we ever do with these?” They left the stinking quarters as fast as possible.
The barracks all conformed to a general plan. The dimensions of each were usually 100 x 50 feet. The structures were predominantly one story in height and built of brick trimmed with cut stone.
The barracks in Vladivostok as well as throughout Eastern Siberia had been built for Russian troops; all appeared to be of a standard type. There was usually an entrance at each end. Each building contained four small rooms twelve feet square. These were separated by a narrow hall terminating in a general squad room. Ceilings were twelve feet high. These rooms were used for administration purposes.
Each kitchen contained a typical Russian stove, usually four feet broad, three feet deep and six to eight feet high. Stoves were equipped with immovable small fire boxes and with huge iron or copper cauldrons of 50-gallon capacity. Generally there was no provision for cooking or baking on the top. Further investigation revealed that there was no provision whatever for the cleaning of utensils!
The officials learned that garbage and waste water had usually simply been thrown down a hole in the floor. The Americans were learning about life in Siberia.
“Where did the soldiers eat?” asked one of the officers, for there was no mess hall in any of the barracks.
They were to find out that Russian soldiers went into the kitchen to receive their food which was then eaten in the Squad Room. This room was lighted with the customary double windows which provided about the same degree of light as the Americans had been used to in the States. The Squad Room was heated by another large brick or cast-iron stove which was lined with firebrick. These stoves were about four feet square and ten feet high. The firebox was small and required hours of firing until sufficient heat was generated. They were, however, adequate to heat a room ventilated in a manner to which the doughboys were accustomed.
It was learned that in Siberia, with the onset of cold weather, buildings were hermetically sealed to conserve fuel. Eastern Siberia had little available as a result of the disorganization of the railways. Available coal was inferior in quality.
Stoves in the officers’ rooms were miniatures of those in the barracks. At regular intervals in the barracks groups a typical Russian bathhouse was located. This was a one-story affair where provision was made to expose from twenty to forty men at one time in the conventional Russian bath followed by a cold plunge.
As he studied the situation in Vladivostok, Styer became increasingly more troubled. It did not take him too long to realize that the Allied military objective required prompt reorganization of the railway administration. Seated on board the WARREN on August 17, 1918, he wrote: “The American Railroad Engineers are right in Harbin and have been ready to do the necessary reorganization. Some of them are also in Vladivostok now. They are prepared with full knowledge of the situation based on full investigation and practical cooperation. As a military measure of the first importance I believe they (The Russian Railway Service Corp) should be placed in charge of the railway administrations at once. I propose to so represent to my government by cable today, with the recommendation that the services of these engineers be formally placed at the disposal of such military official or body as may be appointed by the Allied Commanders to supervise the military use of the railway necessary to joint operations. Your views are requested.”
While Styer and other officials were trying to investigate the situation and arrange for barracks for the doughboys, the latter were tramping up and down the transports wondering when they could set foot on land again. As a matter of fact, the officers had similar thoughts.

When the men finally left the transports they learned that the British, French and Japanese were already there. The Czecho-Slovaks were everywhere and the White Russians and Bolsheviks were both entering the city by carloads. Those “grinning Chinese coolies” already discussed, were present in every group and new leaders were screaming to the Russians to join their particular kind of Government.
The Cossacks were sniping at the peasants who were scowling so bitterly one could almost here their oaths.
Yes, the wharves that mid-August of 1918 offered quite a sight; there were meticulously dressed business men, unclothed and unbathed urchins and men, women and children in a variety of costumes all intermingled.
To our soldiers in their neat olive drab it was perhaps the beginning of the strangest series of experiences they were ever to face. One man said that the most peculiar happening that he witnessed on his first day was a pompous, well dressed business man “stepping over a stinking dead animal, covered with vermin, right in the middle of the street as though it was a perfectly ordinary thing to do.” The soldier added that he “felt dizzy and distracted by all the disorders and by the sights and smells.” The men had no sooner set foot on land than they were assailed by one rumor after another. Furthermore, none of the officials seemed to have any idea of what to do with the army once it got on shore. The prevailing disorganization has not been forgiven by many a man to this day. The faith they had in their country began to waver. A doubt disturbed them, one they wanted to push aside, but a doubt nevertheless. As they were shunted from one place to another in the months ahead and had become accustomed to the confusion and chaos in Siberia, this doubt faded; they never did, however, ever completely forget those first disappointments. They had believed that Uncle Sam would surely have barracks and chow ready for them upon arrival.
As though it was not confusing enough to view the melting pot of the world at Vladivostok’s front door, the 1500 arrivals were about to face a local stike!
Local labor, although in apparent need of money, refused to unload the transports. This work was now left to the ocean-weary soldiers. It meant no sight-seeing, no rest, no chow; just hard labor.
The officers too were furious at the disorganization attending their arrival; the strike was about the last straw.
When the Russian laborers saw that the Americans were about to do their own unloading, they recanted and agreed to work after all. They were then told to go to hell by the officers; the men of the 27th did the work.
Emotions remained mixed. There were always a few who professed to have had no surprise or amazement at the treatment. One man said, “It’s always the same in any port.” Others disagreed violently. Many put the unpleasant aside and recalled the reception they had received. They never forgot the wonderful and strange arrival and recall to this day that they were met in the harbor by the Czecho-Slovak soldiers who nearly “raised the roof” when they saw the Americans. “Those fellow sure made us know that they were glad to see us,” one man said.
But when the men left the ships and had had a chance to talk to those who could understand them, they became fearful in spite of the size and obvious commercial status of Vladivostok. The fears that had assailed them on the transport regarding wolves and Bolsheviks had been allayed, had released tens of thousands of German and Austrian prisoners of war who were going to treat the Allies as enemies, they began to wonder how the situation was to be met.
When the Americans put the town under closer scrutiny it still seemed a quaint place, not as beautiful as they had at first though. Otto Korn expressed it this way when he had fist landed: “It was as though the wheels of time had stopped turning about a century ago. The quaint old buildings on cobblestone streets were pleasant to look at, but oh the filth when you came closer! Most of the people were emaciated looking and poorly clad. The men were bewhiskered usually, and wore knee length boots. This seemed the custom throughout the land. They had Tonnerville Trolley type streetcars mostly driven by fat sloppy women often in dirty house dresses or aprons. The cars were usually loaded down with people, many carrying large bundles of belongings wrapped up in bedsheets or tablecloths, or the like. Pigs and chickens ran in and out of the front doors of the homes, which were built right on the sidewalks–and this was in the busier parts of the town where the streetcars and cobblestones were. Their highways or rural roads were unpaved; practically ungraded. When wet they were quagmires and when dry they were dusty and nothing but ruts and bumps. Then there were the collies who went around and cleaned out the latrines. They were called the ‘honey dumpers’. Beverage systems and inside plumbing was not too prevalent. Lost every town we subsequently came to had a Japanese red light section, but at the same time most every village had a church. The Greek Orthodox Church with its double cross bar became a familiar sight no matter where we went. As congenial and friendly as the Russians seemed to be, life was still very cheap. A person did not have much trouble losing life. The entire atmosphere to me seemed to be one lawlessness. I believe that many people were murdered and there was nothing down about it.”
It was soon learned that the masses of material piled up at dockside were actually the supplies and munitions about which the Americans had heard so much. They had been told so often that the material had been sent to Siberia by the Allies. No one had to tell them what might happen if those supplies fell into the hands of the released German prisoners! It might mean victory for the enemy. The Americans realized that it would be a fight to the finish if the prisoners seized those supplies. Furthermore, the Americans knew that the Bolsheviks and others would contend for money as well as the very clothes on a man’s back.
“Be wary of any man,” the doughboys were told, “no matter what kind of a uniform he may be wearing for you never know when a Bolshevik will be dressed up like a White Russian Admiral.”
Many of the Americans were ‘bitching’ about their accommodations. George Vandenburgh said that they were temporarily placed in old Russian quarters which were “full of cockroaches. We spend several days with candles lighting them as they ran up the walls. It was bitterly cold at night and we were not issued warm clothing for some time.”
Julian Sheppard recalls meeting Czecho-Slovak soldiers that had “captured the town and taken a good deal of prisoners. They were kept in he old round house and there were some very rough people among those prisoners.”
The whole situation, the sights and sounds and advice, did not make for a very relaxed atmosphere. Furthermore, the Americans were told to watch out for unexpected raids. These were frequent they heard, and one never knew when they were going to come. All this sage advice was from the few in the seething mobs who could speak the men’s own language. The Yanks were also told: “Good God men, you had better get other clothes and quick.” This caused concern. They were hot and contented when they arrived in August, but at night it was quite a different story. Sometimes the temperature dropped unbelievably and before long the Americans heard that it would go to 60 degrees below zero.
“Save up your grease,” the soldiers were advised, “for a month or so you will have that stinking stuff on your face, or your skin will crack. You won’t be able to stand the cold, or the stench of the grease, so what’s the difference.” Sardonic laughs accompanied the information.
“It’s a lovely place here,” said one Tommy to a Yank, “wolves howl at night, bandits prowl by day and by night, murder and unburied bodies are an everyday occurrence. Yes man, quite a lovely, lovely place.”
The new arrivals did hear one favorable thing about Vladivostok. That was that the city had “nice Chinese tea shops.” This sounded good, yet more than one nose wrinkled when there came to mind the Chinamen they had seen at the waterfront.
So this was what they had come to. This was the vast frozen wasteland full of wolf packs that would be lined up at the dock; and then they were told to visit a nice Chinese tea shop! With no wolves in sight, what a topsy-turvy world!
While they waited for a suitable place to be quartered they had increasing conversations with those who had preceded them. They learned of the vanguard of Czecho-Slovaks who had come overland from Europe with rifles and they had entered from the land side and eventually fought the Bolsheviks from one railway station to another, and how as a result of this the very air of each town reeked with desolation. The Americans were told that the Bolsheviks had welched on an agreement with the Czecho-Slovaks who were not about to accept a double cross; they fought back. Riots were the order of the day.
The Americans wondered what it would be like in those outlying districts along the tracks. Would they be sent there? They saw that Vladivostok had not remained immune from war for there were bullet-riddled buildings and many windows were still devoid of glass.
Perhaps the most comforting sight that the doughboys enjoyed was that of the majestic BROOKLYN and the sailors and marines aboard her. They called to the ship with much affection.
“Good luck, guys,” Emmett Hoskins, a sailor, called back. “You are our regular army and we are with you all the way.” And the sailors meant it. Hoskins wrote in his diary: “The troops looked wonderful to us. There were young soldiers, and those with hash marks, and we knew they were the backbone of our army and would be a good fighting outfit. But we could not help but notice the difference in ages and builds. Some were so tall, some short, some thin, some fat; but all military of the United States of America.”
Although it was good to see the Americans on the BROOKLYN as well as the English and the French troops, the general effect was almost awesome.
It was difficult for an American to evaluate the ethnology of Siberia after viewing the population in the streets that late summer of 1918. Those of the better class seemed to be of Russian origin as did the multitudes of peasants. Yet there appeared to be a large proportion of Chinese, Koreans and members of native tribes from the Northern Provinces. In addition there were the Germans, Austrians, Turks, Czecho-Slovaks, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Italians, Poles, Jews, Romanians, Siberians and others. For years Siberia had been the depository for political and criminal prisoners. Many of these were educated but penniless, the shabby genteel of the country. It was not until the turn of the century that Russia imprisoned her criminals in Russia rather than exiling them to Siberia. At any rate, the sons of cutthroats and intellectuals walked side by side through the muck of the streets of Vladivostok.
The American Intelligence Section was immediately placed in the preliminary staff arrangements upon its arrival. The group maintained close relations with the Flagship BROOKLYN as well as with Japanese and Czecho-Slovak Headquarters as well as the British and French Military Missions.
The American personnel were pleased indeed to know that they were surrounded by their Intelligence Section which they felt would keep them informed about conditions. An Intelligence Officer controlled the Engineer Detachment until September 11, 1918. Subsequently the Detachment was separated and placed under the command of an Engineer Officer. The Engineers had been occupied from the time of their arrival. Sixteen officers were provided for in the Headquarters Building and five field parties of three men each had started work on a reconnaissance map of Vladivostok and vicinity with an attached index to show location, construction and size of all buildings available for military purposes; principal buildings for the city were also indicated.
The Veterinary Unit was responsible for the welfare of animals. This unit had its own special problems as each piece of stock had to be examined by John A. McKinnon and Civilian Farrier William Humphries. It took some time to find that the 130 head of horses and 340 mules were in excellent condition and that they “suffered no ill effects from the trip.” Nothing was said about the mule which had been reported earlier to have died of seasickness. When the mules were debarked they were picketed at the Custom House docks. The stock was kept on these docks for six days and then transported to a compound of the Base & Line of Communications.
When Co. M, 27th Infantry, landed it used the sheds belonging to the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Some of these sheds were also used for storage rooms and one served to house the German and Austrian prisoners of war. Five hundred of the latter worked for the Americans in their sector. The prisoners were good workers; many had been to the United States.
Major Richard Allen of the Quartermaster Reserve Corps was assigned to duty as Quartermaster of the AEFS. On August 21, 1918 Major Allen was relieved by Lt. Colonel G.H. Williams, Infantry, as Acting Chief Quartermaster. Williams continued at this post until the arrival of Colonel E.J. Gallagher, Chief Quartermaster, on September 29th. The personnel that had accompanied the Expedition from the Philippine Islands included Major Allen, Captain L.J. Wechsler, 2nd Lieutenant Harry Feigleson and Frank L. Talmadge. In addition there were also one Field Clerk and 28 enlisted men.
The organization which arrived from Manila was equipped with Equipment C based on peace strength of organizations. The supplies necessary to equip these to full war strength with Equipment C and special Alaskan clothing (to enable them to endure the Siberian winter) were shipped later from the United States in accordance with requisitions prepared prior to the departure of the Commanding General.
The Quartermaster Division had commenced operations as early as August 7, 1918 when the first troops left Manila. Captain Wechsler was relieved on September 4, 1918 by Lt. Clifford C. Patterson, Q.M.C.
It was subsequently found that the Baldwin buildings, occupied as officers quarters, troop barracks, hospitals, stables, etc., were in bad repair, requiring a considerable outlay of material and labor to make them habitable and warm for winder living.
When the buildings were used as warehouses by the various departments it was found necessary to reinforce the floors as they were found inadequate to carry the storage of supplies. Adjustments were made by Russian carpenters under the direction of the Quartermaster Corps. War prisoners were used as laborers.
Since the water supply was poor, distilling plants were installed at the Base Evacuation Hospital. A bathhouse with 56 showers was built at the plant at the Base. The hot water from a condenser was used for bathing.
The Quartermaster Corps was to be kept busy for some time to come. A laundry was constructed by this unit for the use of the Evacuation Hospital. In order to provide transportation for the troops it was necessary to equip boxcars with wooden bunks. The latter were built the width of the cars at each end and were long enough to provide a comfortable bed. Cars were also provided for the transportation of animals.
Much of the above work was started soon after the men had landed. It was found necessary to construct new roads to and from the Base and around the Warehouse. Four thousand feet of foundation rock was laid 20 feet in width and 18 inches in depth. This was done under the supervision of the RRSC with POW labor.
After the confusion of the first landing had subsided, it became necessary to instal spur tracks (a total of 1,190 feet) parallel to the docks at the Base. These were placed to facilitate the loading and unloading of future transports. Railroad material belonging to the Chinese Eastern Railway was utilized for this purpose.
The inhabitants of the city saw the first American doughboys marching through the streets on August 18, 1918. The soldiers were en route to the front.

– The Parade –

It did not take the Americans long to hear that there was to be a big Allied Parade on August 19th. The men who remained in the city were to march through the streets in all their glory. The whole town was to be out to watch. And that was no exaggeration.
James Whitehead wrote to his wife at 10 pm the night of the 19th and said: “The Americans sure looked wonderful. There were about 1200 of them, all fully equipped. “Not all the troops were in the parade either,” he explained, “but there were enough to show the Russians a good sample of Americanism. I was up on a balcony with some Russian friends and sure had a wonderful view.”
Eugene Streed recalled that his detachment of Marines were parading between two bands which kept playing different tunes! “It sure was hard to keep in step.”
The parade started at 4 pm and the men were escorted by a company of Czecho-Slovaks as they strutted down wide Svetlanskaya Street. It was all very thrilling with the Czech bank playing for all it was worth.
A Guard of Honor also paraded down the street and was received by line of Allied officers. The public was wildly enthusiastic. The entire city joined in the air of celebration.
The reviewing officers included Admiral Knight of the U.S. Navy and Gen. Dietrichs, the general who was commanding the Czecho-Slovaks. American and Allied Consuls were also on hand.
Along the route the guards of the march were unarmed and were spaced at eight-foot intervals. These consisted of Americans, Czecho-Slovaks, Japanese and Russian soldiers as well as French, Japanese, British, Chinese and American sailors and marines. After the great showing the Americans returned to the transport.
RRSC corpsmen Porter Turner observed that there were about a thousand troops following the band and that there were also different supply wagons and autos. “They sure made a grand showing and were given a glad hand by all the leading people here,” he wrote.
Julian Sheppard of Co. K 27th Infantry was proud of the Colors of the Regiment as were all the men of that outfit. He notes “We paraded through the town. Movies were taken of our Regiment.”
The 27th Infantry Regimental Colors were first carried ashore to be displayed in the parade.
Later it had been rumored that the 27th had lost its Colors. Many of the men hotly denied this and James Merati reported that the Colors were always in front of Colonel Morrow’s headquarters. Merati stated that “they were displayed every single day and were always with the Regiment Headquarters Company. It may be that the 27th was split up into to many companies that it just seemed as though the Colors had been lost.”
Years later a version of what really happened appeared in an article by John W. Wike in the February 15, 1955 issue of “The Wolfhound.” The article had been published by the courtesy of “The Quarterly Journal Military Collector and Historian.” “The Wolfhound” was the official publication of the 27th Infantry Regiment and had been printed for that organization during the Siberian intervention.
Wike stated that the 27th Infantry Regiment (The Wolfhounds) received as much praise as any other unit in the army and that it was praise justly deserved. “At the same time,” he reported, “it has also been the victim of one of the worst type of rumor to befall a fighting outfit, namely that it lost its colors in Siberia in 1919 while part of the Siberian Expedition. This story has, in one version or another, been making the rounds since 1920.”
Mr. Wike said that he felt that it was time to kill the rumors and explain that in mid-August 1918 the 27th Infantry Regiment paraded their Colors on the 19th of the month and were reviewed by General Otani, Admiral Knight, Colonel Styer and others.
“From that moment,” Wike stated, “to the end of its stay in Russia, the 27th acted in the best traditions of the United States Army and when its soldiers embarked from Russian soil in December 1920 they did so with the praise of the local Russians and the Allies ringing in their ears.”
Exactly one year after the parade, on August 19, 1919, Colonel Morrow requested new Colors. The old ones had been in service for fourteen years and he reported that the silk had so disintegrated that repairs were not practicable. He also requested permission for the unit to retain its current Colors as no others were available and he did not want the regiment without its Colors while in Siberia. Four days later his request was approved and a cable was sent to the States for new Colors. The 27th also received permission to retain the old ones. On September 4, 1919, General Graves was informed that the Colors had been shipped from Jeffersonville, Indiana as early as April 30th. A further report indicated that the Colors had left San Francisco on June 5th. They started to the Regiment but never reached it and thus the rumor started that the Colors had been lost. “Far from being lost in disgrace,” Wike stated, “they do not seem ever to have been received. They were lost in transit.”
Wike proved his point by asserting that on April 21, 1922, when the unit was stationed in Hawaii, another request was made, noting that the Colors had been in use for sixteen years. This indicated that the flags then in use were the same original Colors that had been identified as being too ragged in 1919. They had not been lost at all; they were just a bit more ragged. At last, in 1922, new Colors reached the 27th and the old ones were put to rest.
It might be mentioned here that the 27th Infantry was organized during the Spanish-American War for service in Cuba. It also served in the Philippines at Mindanao in the campaign against the Moros; then it returned to Fort Sheridan in the States and on to the Mexican Border and Vera Cruz. The unit then returned to the Philippines; from here it left for Siberia.

– Arrival of the SHERMAN –

On August 21, 1918 the army transport SHERMAN arrived at Vladivostok with the men of the 31st Infantry Regiment. They had come from the tropical Philippine Islands.
The men debarked directly on the dock. On this occasion there were no strikers. Apparently, the Russian workers were loath to lose pay as they had upon the arrival of the 27th Regiment. After the unloading, however, when the laborers again had money, they again resorted to striking just at the time that the SHERMAN was ready to depart at 5 pm.
In a history of the 31st Regiment, it is noted that a tent camp had been established by the men at Gornostai Valley in the northern Vladivostok sector. Some detachments of Americans were sent there prior to being sent out along the Ussuri line.
Clint Stephenson of the 31st Regiment stated that when they reached the tent area it was almost dark. “The Captain halted the company and said we could find our tents. My squad found one and pitched tents. That night nearly everyone froze to death. All we had was one little blanket. When we awoke in the morning and saw the way we had pitched our tents in the dark we had to laugh at the crazy set of alinements.”
Stephenson was suffering from dysentery and could not go on. He reported sick and was placed on a boat and taken to “some island where the Japanese and the Red Cross had a hospital.” He observed: “I was taken by stretcher. A Japanese nurse then put me in a tub and gave men a bath. Later I was assigned to a four-bed ward and found myself with three English soldiers. My bed had no mattress or springs, just a blanket over bare boards. When the Japanese doctor found out I was an American I was pretty sure I was going to live. I didn’t think he would risk letting his first American soldier die. But I must say he knew his profession for in a few days I was blocked from the runs.”
Stephenson said that the doctor came in one morning and stated that he was going to administer an enema to Stephenson.
“I didn’t know what an enema was so I told him I wanted CC pills.”
The answer was “No. You will take an enema.”
“Later a nurse came in with a bottle with a long hose attached. I tried to drink from the hose, not knowing the function of an enema. The poor nurse was distracted as she spoke no English. The Tommies were guffawing. One of them told me what an enema was. When I heard, I absolutely refused to have one.”
Then Stephenson heard rumors that the outfit was leaving for Moscow. He did not want to be left behind so begged for permission to leave.
The doctor’s reply was “No.”
The Englishmen shook their heads in disbelief and said that they could not understand Americans.
UNREADABLE ………… fight and yet you want to get out.”
The doctor came in and said he did not understand Americans either and added: “One day you are nearly dead and the following day you want to get out.”
The young soldier did recover after remaining in the hospital for a month. Upon finishing officer’s school later, he remarked, “Sergeants Beck, Cranford and I turned in our commissions and were subjected to a two hour’s reprimand regarding the spending of governmental money needlessly. Nevertheless, I stayed with the Officers’ Mess until the following May when we went up to Shkotovo.”
Other men of the 31st Regiment recalled the arrival at Vladivostok. Harry Rohrer reported that after finally docking, the gangplank was lowered and the “men filed down to good old terra firma. Cripes it was good to be on land again.” Irving Dexter recorded in his diary that they made camp on the 22nd of August and worked the next two days. Guy Killman noted that after they arrived they were shipped out on the railway to different detachments. “Company M was scattered later in small detachments for about 100 miles. Our company was only 75 strong at the time. We never got any heavy clothing until we got back to Vladivostok where we received new men to make up our lost strength of 250 men. Then we were shipped to the Suchan Mines. While there, a good deal later, we did receive our heavy clothing.”

Earl R. Perry recalled that they were given shots and then mustered out to different commands. “I drew Headquarters Company, 31st Infantry and was given a briefing.”

On the morning after the arrival, the men awoke to reveille and wondering what the day would bring forth.

Rohrer stated that they had brief calisthenics in the cold air and then fell in for a breakfast of bacon, coffee and spuds. He was a member of K Company, 31st, which was assigned to guard the Base of Supplies and the German POW’s.

V.E. Hockett, with Company B, recalled the large brick barracks which were made available but said that the men were kept moving from one of these to another while on guard duty.
Jesse Ward of M Company recalled that most of the men were disgusted with the poor sanitary conditions in Vladivostok. He added: “The city had an odor that I can still smell, by fancy, after over 50 years.”
Rohrer and Asa Williams expressed disgust at the general conditions and Harry Bullard of H Company stated: “Being surprised is expressing it mildly. The Japanese seem to have everything under their control.” Victor Stanfield recalled his first duty. “It was a 24-hour guard duty at the Base. The Third Battalion of the 31st was commanded by Lt. Colonel S.C. Loring.”
Corporal W.H. Johnson who was with the Headquarters Band and Company C wrote his dad that after a pleasant trip, except for a rough day on the China Sea, they had shore leave at Nagasaki and enjoyed the sights before leaving for Vladivostok. His letter, written August 28, 1918, was severely censored. He stated: “I have been in Siberia for seven nights and have not slept twice in the same place, and have only had my shoes off three times. We are located in a large brick building now but no telling how long we will stay here. I don’t have the least idea where the rest of the Regiment is for we are all stationed at different posts….There are some (censored) troops who are bloody well buggered up in the first part of the war, also a (censored) troops. Have seen a lot of (much censoring) and some of our troops have the pleasure of guarding them at work (very long censoring). We have been very busy and are not allowed to leave quarters after 6 pm. I don’t know of any of our troops being killed yet but one was wounded. Our work is dangerous but there has not been any fighting in the city for over a month. The city is in the hands of our Russian Allies but it isn’t safe to be out at night. We have armed enemies (censored) away and there was a bunch of Russians, who had been wounded, at the dock to meet us as we came in. So we stand a good chance of seeing some action. The sailors from an (censored) gave us a cheer when we came in but now we are separated from the rest of the world. We can’t talk and have not received any mail as yet, but sometimes we get a little news from the ship in the harbor. Have learned some Russian words already and have a great time teaching the Russian soldiers our language and learning theirs. I am getting along fine but notice quite a change in the climate and from the looks of the buildings it must get pretty cold here in winter. Don’t worry about me here for I am having the time of my life. Most likely a few of use will meet a bullet some night on guard but that is to be expected in a place where there is so many different factions as there is here. I have had a experience of an army on the move now and have had to sleep in our little pup tents a couple of times. If I could write everything I wanted to this would be quite a letter but I suppose our mail will be censored.”
The civil war that had been raging resulted in the overrun of partisan bands and guerrillas and, although the United States was not at war with any faction, the troops were frequently fired upon. The small detachments were kept busy chasing these bands and in some cases several companies were organized to march against the resistance. Strong tactical positions had to be taken along the railroads.
The men who were to leave Vladivostok were told that they were to guard the Trans-Siberian Railroad and assist the Russian Railway Service Corps to keep traffic moving. They were also to guard American supplies, munitions, ordinance and property for the Allies. They were to assist the Czecho-Slovaks and the Russian Police in preserving order.
When the troops landed companies were formed and assignments were made. Jesse Ward said they ate their meals out in the open on the wharf and a lot of children gathered around them begging for food. Ward recalled, “I heaved a potato with a jacket on, to one of them and he said ‘spacebo’ so I learned my first Russian word.”
The Signal Corps was attempting to keep the American Headquarters advised of all happenings. Some 30 messages were sent out by wire each day. These mounted to about 1000 words each. In addition, there were press bulletins for the Committee for Public Information to all troops between Vladivostok and Chita which also came to about 1000 words daily. This work kept the Signal Corpsmen on the alert.

Communications were also established with various points of importance to the expedition. Line #219 from Vladivostok to Khabarovsk and a number of branch connections were made with communications eventually extended to Chita, some 1850 miles from Vladivostok, via Khabarovsk.
Footnotes

Much of the information has been taken from correspondence, diaries, letters and personal records of the men who served in Siberia.

WDNA refers to War Department section of the National Archives in Washington.

RRSC refers to the Russian Railway Service Corps.

The Siberian Sojourn – Volume I, Chapters 1- 14

October 19, 2010 4 comments

The Siberian Sojourn – Volume I, Chapters 1- 14

THE SIBERIAN SOJOURN Volume I:  Written By: Edith M. Faulstich (who was my grandmother-Alice M. Fisher)
This work of my grandmother’s is protected by copyright laws, any use for profit thereof or reprint of any kind or use on any medium, social network, brochure, book, reserach article must be fully cited.
Please, give her the due respect she deserves from the 25 years of selfless research she performed. Faulstich, Edith M. The Siberian Sojourn. [Yonkers, N.Y.]: Faulstich, 19741977. I have taken the time to electronically reprint her unpublished book, except for a very small printing which was provided to the families of the A.E.F soldiers and the select with whom she corresponded.
Author’s Preface
Family Preface & Acknowledgment
Introduction

Book One


Events Leading Up to the Arrival of the American
Expeditionary Forces in Vladivostok

Part One – Events to July 1918

Chapter I – Events to January 1918………………………………………………….. 1-9
Chapter II – January to July 1918
Months of Decision and Indecision…………………………………………………… 7-10

Part Two – The BROOKLYN

Chapter III – The Sailors and The Marines on the
BROOKLYN to March 1, 1918………………………………………………………….. 11-17
Chapter IV – The BROOKLYN,
March to August 1918……………………………………………………………………… 19-43

Part Three – The Russian Railway Service Corps,
October 1917 to August 1918

Chapter V – A Dash of Volunteers to St. Paul……………………. 45-55
Chapter VI – The RRSC En Route to Vladivostok………………. 57-67
Chapter VII – At Nagasaki,
December 1917 to May 1918……………………………………………… 69-85
Chapter VIII – Emerson’s Trip Across Siberia,
April to September 1918…………………………………………………… 87-111
Chapter IX – Back in Japan………………………………………………. 113-122

Part Four – The 27th and 31st Infantry Regiments
Prior to Landing in Vladivostok,
August and September 1918

Chapter X – The 27th and 31st Infantry Regiments
Prepare to Move from the
Philippine Islands………………………………………….. 123-137
Chapter XI – The Men in the States Prepare to
Move, August 1918………………………………………. 139-160
Chapter XII – Leaving the States, September 1918…………… 161-184
Chapter XIII – First View of Vladivostok……………………………… 185-189
Chapter XIV – The RRSC in Vladivostok,
August 1918………………………………………………… 191-201

Book Two would have continued with the activities of the Allies until January 1, 1919.

Book Three would have covered the events during 1919.

Book four would have concluded the story of the Siberian Sojourn by tracing the events from January 1, to April 1, 1920, when the last of the American doughboys finally left for home.

 

Family Note: The research, diaries and papers for all of the books were donated to Standford University, Hoover Institute, California.


 

Preface

This book is the realization of a dream that began some fifteen years ago. Dreams are hopes, and I hoped one day to be able to relate a cross section of the story of many men who had served with the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia from 1918 to 1920. As the Siberian Intervention provides us with a heritage manifest today in our Russian and Japanese relationships, I felt that such a story would have both a nostalgic and an historic appeal. If memorabilia could be found, letters and diaries of the doughboys would obviously provide considerable firsthand observations.

As a postal historian, I had collected military mail dating as far back as 1515. Stories of battles and conditions told in the mail made history come to life. Mail from the Siberian Campaign could do the same thing. It was an event that happened within my own lifetime, yet one which took place a half a century ago – enough time to give an historian unbiased observations.
I approached my “dream” with intellectual curiosity and a mind uncluttered by personal conviction for, when I started this labor of love some fifteen years ago, I knew precious little about the Siberian Campaign. It was that fact that spurred my interest, for I learned I was not alone in my ignorance of what had transpired, and why, in Siberia from 1918 to 1920. Few people with whom I conversed had ever heard that American troops were in Russia at the end of World War I, troops that were apparently forgotten for twenty long months.

When the regiments were finally ordered to leave Siberia in the winter of 1920, the were not returned as a body to the continental United States. Instead, many were strewn like unwanted children on distant shores. The 31st Infantry Regiment travelled from Vladivostok to the Philippines where it remained. The 27th Infantry Regiment moved from Vladivostok to the Philippines and subsequently to permanent headquarters in Hawaii. Most of the service organization personnel, and some of the doughboys, were eventually able to reach terra firma of the United States of America, but many resented not being returned in a body to their home ports. They considered themselves “America’s Forgotten Army.”

Before delving into this project, all readily available literature relating to the Siberian Intervention was consulted. At once a startling gap was noticed. Several excellent books had been written on the political seesaw. A few had been written by individuals telling of their own experiences. Generals always write memoirs, but in the book by General Graves, Commander of the American Forces in Siberia, there was little mention of the activities of the men who served in Siberia. I wondered about their attitudes, their thoughts and their background. After seriously studying the contents of a few letters in my personal collection, I saw the necessity of telling that story. Looking at my calendar, I realized it was not too late to reach some surviving veterans in order to question them about their sojourn and thereby obtain a composite representation of the experiences of those who served. I determined almost at once that my book would be their book, that it would be devoted mainly to the minute details of their day-by-day existence for twenty months in Siberia when the spector of boredom was sometimes their worst enemy.

As a great many discrepancies regarding dates, places and spellings occurred in the records and books that were consulted, I have included minutiae which may seem trivial to some readers. However, it is hoped that this record will be helpful to some researcher of the future.

In the mid-1950’s I began to devote time to this book. What a joy it would be, I thought, to be able to touch the hands of men who had actually served in the Siberian Intervention and to hear their stories first had. I began by contacting the late General Eichelberger, the late Kenneth Roberts and others. Once name led to another, but my busy life and my work, which included meeting daily deadlines, allowed insufficient time to delve into the subject. I knew this project would be a labor of love and that other pressing work would have to be put aside before I could tackle the many facets of the Siberian Campaign.

Mr. Roberts kindly sent me a roster compiled by the AEFS Veteran Unit in California. The list consisted of an awesome 3,500 names. I began to nibble at the list, but unavailable time made it impossible to continue. In order to write the book I was eventually compelled to wind up all deadline commitments, with one exception. This took two years. In 1962, I began to work seriously on many of the participants and that the only way I would be able to tell their story would be to devote full time thereto.

Several years were necessary to lay the groundwork. First I sent a form letter to 750 veterans whose names I picked at random from the roster. I realized that results would be meager as there had been another world war and a twenty-year lapse since the roster had been compiled.
About 99% of the form letters were returned with “Addressee Unknown” or some similar indication. It was then I realized that, for the sake of thoroughness, my conscience would not permit me to overlook any name on the roster.

Next came the printing of form letters containing a promise to pay postage to anyone who answered. I soon needed part-time help, another typewriter, a copying machine, a tape recorder and additional files. My form letters netted a return of approximately 15%, not a large amount. But the enthusiasm displayed by this 15% when they learned someone would be telling “their” forgotten story was reassuring and heartwarming.

Then their were the returns with notations which simply said “No Forwarding Address.” Those were frustrating.

The envelopes marked “Deceased” saddened me, as though I had lost forever some precious link. The letters from wives telling me of their departed husbands were sadder still. One woman wrote that her husband only spoke of the bitter cold and of the hungry children who would come to camp looking for food from the soldiers. “He never mentioned his own ordeals but you and I know they were not all pleasant memories. Here are some photographs and cards. If you can find any use for them, good luck to you. Should anything happen to me they would only be thrown away.” Then she added: “When you write your book and your thoughts are on the men you are writing about say a silent little prayer for my loved one.”

During the ensuing years a correspondence grew which has brought me many friends, much joy and the sorrows that must of necessity attend the departure of any of my “Siberians.”
My office resembled the focal point of a master printshop. The mailman groaned under the heavy burden of my returns. My part-time secretary shook her head in despair.
The letters had to be assorted: “Deceased,” “Unknown,” “Live Answers” and “Answers with Material.” The “Deceased” were put on one pile to list. The “Unknowns” were listed and the form letters were taken out to send to some new names, for those who wrote were often able to send names of men who were not on the list. Files were opened for all who answered. The “Deceased” were filed separately. Letters were acknowledged and postage refunded. Those who sent diaries or letters were requested to wait a week or two until their information could be taken off by typewriter or copying machine and then returned to them. Those who sent photographs were requested to wait until I had time to have copies made of material that might be cogent. Two years of steady correspondence followed.

Meanwhile I prepared a list of ninety-six questions which were sent, with an additional form letter, to each man who had answered. It was also necessary to prepare additional forms as more and more men were answering. The correspondence and study of the data received from the men, and my search elsewhere for background data consumed my time until 1966. I spent weeks at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Time, too, was spent at the Library of Congress. Subsequently I went to Ottawa, Canada to study the records in the Canadian Archives. I visited war museums, interviewed veterans at my home and occasionally at theirs and spoke on a radio program of the National Broadcasting Company in the United States and on the Canadian Broadcasting Company in Canada. In addition, I had notices of my search inserted in various VFW and Legion magazines in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. I wrote short articles and gave a number of lectures on the subject.

Although I determined that the main theme of the book would reflect the personal experiences of men of the AEFS, I realized that the international aspect would make it necessary to include the stories of other men and women as well. There were the men of the Russian Railway Service Corps who were in Vladivostok long before our military forces arrived. The sailors and marines on the BROOKLYN were also in Vladivostok before the AEFS. Their stories could not be ignored. Then there were the nurses and doctors who toiled, sometimes in impossible weather, to combat disease. They fought to keep our sick and wounded alive. There were also the service organizations whose men and women sweated it out while the Allied Intervention took place in Siberia.

The Czecho-Slovaks, Japanese, British, French, Italians, Canadians and others were also part of the overall picture as they mingled with the Americans. To obtain information regarding our allies it was necessary to make contact with sources in several foreign countries.

In answer to my queries, men sent photographs, diaries, letters, papers, souvenirs and stories of their sojourn. Everything had to be read, studied, marked, noted and listed. Postage was refunded and returns made carefully by registered, certified or insured mail. In order to learn something of the men themselves, forms were made regarding their biographies. Some of these proved most helpful.

When the microfilm that I ordered from the National Archives arrived, I had Xerographic copies made. These had to be cut, assorted and filed. The maps from the Library of Congress and copies of reports from the Canadian Archives were also so treated. Duke University loaned me the microfilmed letters which General Eichelberger had written to his wife while he served in Siberia. After these were copied, they too had to be assorted by the month and filed before returning to Duke.

At the National Archives I absorbed the frustrating fact that much material was still classified and, therefore, not available to the researcher. The space taken for the material I had been able to accumulate, however, meant that four file drawers had exploded to eight, eight to twelve, and finally it took thirty-five file drawers, four large storage cabinets, a walk-in closet and a number of bookcases to house my own Siberian Intervention archives.

I seemed to be running an efficient correspondence department and office. But the actual writing of the book still seemed far off. It was then that the light began to burn late at night as I struggled with the discrepancies in facts and figures. And there were many. When the men filled out their biographical slips, they gave me a multiplicity of dates regarding departures and arrivals (from one to twelve weeks difference) although many sailed on the same transport. It was some time before verification could be obtained as to the actual dates. Events were at time described as having taken place at one point by one man and at another by a second. On “The March,” one veteran said he had been knee deep in mud and water. On the same day another described the sun and his blisters! And so it went. Checking and rechecking became a day-to-day job. There may be some errors in this book although I sincerely hope my conscientious checking of official records, and double checking with the veterans, will have set dates and places straight. The Russian language was another cause for great concern. In the interest of uniformity I have, in general, tried to maintain the same spelling throughout this book, using as a guide the Military Monograph, Subsection M.1.2., Military Intelligence Division General Staff. This is War Department Document No. 863 of the Office of the Chief of Staff. Unfortunately, errors even occur in this excellent source.

Most of the veterans professed to be honestly happy to assist me. They were sincere in their efforts to help set facts straight. However, the lapse of half a century can fog the memory. Diaries and letters, when they existed, were of inestimable help.

When there has been any question concerning an even, I have taken the interpretation substantiated by identical answers from several men. Flights of fancy, when detected, were omitted. The answers to many questions were inconclusive and, therefore, could not be credited to specific men. Some veterans preferred anonymity in telling of an event. In such cases I have simply said, “a doughboy reported,” “one soldier said” or something similar.

When i was deeply involved with the book, I suffered a severe personal illness which resulted in a lapse of about three years during which time it was impossible for me to continue the pursuit of information for the book. When strength was regained, the work went on full time. It is hoped fervently that the veterans of this most forgotten campaign, and their children, and grandchildren, will feel that the work has not been in vain.

Credits have been given copiously within this book. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to mention a few who have been extremely cooperative. If space permitted, more names would be added.
Specifically, I wish to thank Mrs. Robert Eichelberger and Professor Jay Louvaas for their permission to use the Duke University microfilmed letters of the General. I also wish to thank Dr. Mattie Russell, Curator of Manuscripts at Duke, for forwarding that microfilm to me. Mrs. Eichelberger also kindly sent me some twenty pages of typed notes the General had dictated before his death, with permission to use what I wished to from them.

I cannot thank enough Mr. John Taylor of the Research Division, War Department, National Archives, Washington, D.C. for his untiring efforts in helping me find the mountains of papers and reports which made up the official records of the Siberian Campaign.

My radio talks, both in the United States and Canada, proved most fruitful in reaching veterans. For this I thank Leo August of the Philatelic News Bureau, Maplewood, New Jersey and Douglas Patrick of the Toronto Globe and Mail for inviting me to appear on their radio programs.
The courtesy of the men and women in our National Archives and in the Library of Congress, as well as in the Canadian Archives, had earned my sincere appreciation. Thanks, also, go to the editors who printed my plea for a search for veterans who served in Siberia.
How to adequately thank the veterans themselves is cause for my deepest concern. They literally unearthed records they themselves had not seen in years. I helped one man bang and pound an old steamer truck that had not been opened since 1919 to find his memorabilia. Another man made a notation in his will to leave me his photographs from Siberia as he knew I would give them a loving home.

One of my earliest contacts was Stephen Chadwick, a past Commander-in-Chief of the American Legion. Through the years we became good friends. His help will not be forgotten. It is the same with the past Commander of the Siberian AEF Unit in Los Angeles, Joseph Longuevan. The present Commander, Henry Fry, has served over and beyond the call of duty in helping me in every way possible. Mr. Fry, for a time, wrote me daily bulletins which were of great help. Lynn McQuiddy, called the spark plug of the Veteran Unit, and others were also most helpful. Men sent me their personal letters, their coveted diaries and thousands of photographs to study.
The highlight of my association and love for the veterans of the Siberian Campaign was the receipt of an Honorary Membership in the Veteran Unit as an “Esteemed Benefactor of the Veterans of the Siberian Campaign” and an invitation to speak at the 50th Anniversary Banquet in Los Angeles in September, 1968. There I was able to meet, in person, so many of the men who had taken me by the hand through their letters and diaries as they travelled from Vladivostok to the far reaches of Siberia. It was an association which will be long remembered.

Last, but by no means least, I wish to thank my husband, Fred Faulstich, who first inspired this work by showing me a few letters from Siberia, also for taking the time to read my finished manuscript before it was submitted for publication.
Edith M. Faulstich

June 12, 1970
Yonkers, New York

Family Preface

Edith Margaret Faulstich, 1907-1972

The death on September 4, 1972 of this joyous and generous human being took something from the lives of all who knew her.

Edith had devoted over a decade of her life to the preparation of the story of her “Siberians”. Dedicated to her purpose, she served well and faithfully as so many know who worked with her and provided her with the story of their lives as young men and women so many years ago and so far away.

Before Edith could make a final summary of the large amount of information which she had accumulated, her work was halted by a higher power.

Inspired by the fortitude and courage of this lady, as well as by the encouragement given by so many participants in the events of this chronicle, we present the first part of an, as yet, unwritten work. We ask for tolerance on the part of readers.

Our part in this initial work, we, husband and sons, dedicate to Edith and her beloved “Siberians”.

Fred Faulstich[S} (now deceased)
Donald Fisher
Stephen Fisher

March 22, 1974

Introduction

In this book “America’s Siberian Adventure,” General William S. Graves wrote, “I was in command of the United States troops sent to Siberia and I must admit I do not know what the United States was trying to do.”

In a foreword to the “Regimental History of the 31st-Infantry,” the following was signed simply with the initials W.W.M.: “If perhaps, when you read these lines in years to come you may smile a little, dream a little in remembrance of our life together in Siberia, of our friends and buddies, tried and true, then our work will not have been in vain.”

Stephen Chadwich, a captain of the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia once wrote, “The real romance of war is, after all, in the military license allowed the doughboy chronicler.”
If we take the real romance of war as the military license of the doughboy chronicler, mix it gently with the thoughts of a general who was not sure why he was in Siberia and bear in mind that one purpose of this book is to remember “buddies tried and true” so they may dream a little of their lives there, our efforts, like W.W.M.’s. , will not have been in vain.

Although this story begins with a brief background regarding the situation before the United States decided to send some 10,000 American men to Siberia, it is not the purpose of this book to discuss the detailed political situation of the Siberian Sojourn. Rather it is compiled to show the overall picture of day-to-day living as faced by members of the American Expeditionary Forces. Also included are data of other men and women from other organizations, and from other countries, who helped serve in this almost unremembered historic event.

In retrospect, we may well wonder if a stronger position should have been taken in Siberia instead of the hands-off policy insisted upon by President Woodrow Wilson. Did he hope to supply aid to the Russian people without interference and still help them establish a democracy? Did he intend to liberate the presumably stranded Czecho-Slovaks and get them safely to their homes without the use the arms? It is difficult to repel and enemy without weapons.

It did not take American officials long to realize that Japan, a so-called ally, was the cause of much vexation. To add to the woes of the American diplomats, neither Great Britain nor France regarded the situation from our political standpoint.

To further aggravate the chaotic conditions, our own State and War Departments were at loggerheads and seemed to act independently and secretly.

What would have happened if we had not failed so utterly in our aim to assist the Russian people in establishing a free and democratic government is still a matter of conjecture. Conditions which were faced later had their conception in the Siberian Campaign.

Would Pearl Harbor, the Death March of Bataan or the Korean War have occurred if we had used arms during our Siberian Intervention? Would thousands of the finest American youths have lost their lives in the Vietnam affair if our government had been less docile in Siberia? These questions can never be answered. We only know that President Wilson in his Aide Memoire* gave specific instructions that we were not to interfere in the internal policies of Russia. General William S. Graves, Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia, obeyed his orders to the letter.

*The Aide Memoire expressed the policy which the United States was to follow in Siberia. It appears in full in the Appendix.

BOOK I

EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE ARRIVAL
OF THE AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE IN VLADIVOSTOK

Part I
Events to July 1918

Chapter I

Events to January 1918

During March of 1917, the rumblings of discontent in Russia Reached a dreadful climax. Century-old oppression had bred discontent which became magnified by the hunger which dominated the everyday thoughts of surging humanity at the official gates. The low morale and internal economic weakness resulted in bread riot after bread riot. Finally on a bitter cold day the dam burst. The Revolution had come.

Moscow was aflame with fear and indignation, with hate and disgust. The town hall was overrun by mobs. Screaming humanity was sweating in the bitter, subfreezing temperatures. Students, soldiers, youths and old men trampled one upon the other.

Socialist agitators pressed anti-war pamphlets into receptive hands. many men were still on the battlefronts far across the world while Russia was suffering on the home front. Manpower had become so taken that women were doing most of the work, and they were doing it in the darkening shadows with empty stomachs and empty hearts.

News of the revolution reached the men at the front as winter set in with all its bitterness and misery. Well-worn uniforms helped but little against the wind and snow; shivering bodies could not weather the cruel winds that tore through threadbare garments. Rations had become almost nonexistent. The men at the front felt as mutinous as those at home. As shoes began to disappear entirely and hunger and homesickness engulfed them, soldiers became weak in heart and soul. Then the army began the long process of disintegration which brought about the ultimate, complete withdraw of Russia from the war.

As the Revolution raged at home, dreadful stories began to reach the soldiers. But they also heard that the peasants had overthrown the Czarist regime and that the new rulers had issued “Order No. One” establishing a ten-man Russian provisional government.
The arrest of Imperial Officers began on March 14, 1917, and on the 15gh the Czar abdicated. News of the bloody week in Russia was soon heard around the world.

The March Revolution, born of hardship and hopelessness, was the heritage of an indifferent and often corrupt Czarist Regime. It was a revolution of little men for the fruits of the land they tilled, for the bread they needed and for the peace they sought.

After Alexander Kerensky had been installed as head of the new provisional government, he ordered a grand review of the revolutionary troops in Red Square. They marched under a cloudless sky and breathed the cold, sharp air. In spite of triumph, something in that very air, crisp and cold though it was, infected men on the sidelines with a sense of forboding. Even Kerensky was anxious at this early stage.

British agent Bruce Lockhart, an eyewitness to the March events, described Kerensky: “His face has a sallow and almost deathly pallor. His eyes, narrow and Mongolian, are tired. He looks as if he were in pain, but the mouth is firm and the hair cropped close and worn ‘en brosse,’ gives a general impression of energy. He speaks in quick, jerky sentences with little sharp nods of the head by way of emphasis.

Lockhart considered Kerensky the victim of bourgeois hopes. “he was an honest, if not a great, man, sincere in spite of his oratorical talents, and was comparatively honest.”

As the news of the March Revolution reached the Allies, conferences were held concerning the possible defection of the Russian army in the struggle against Germany.

President Woodrow Wilson was pleased with the news that was coming from Moscow. The Allies were urging him to enter the European War. But he was convinced that an American war must be based on constructive ideals. When the report of the March Revolution reached him, Wilson felt destiny had intervened. He has been unable to decide about sending America to war as an ally of Russian autocracy. Now Russia had a new democratic regime. Within the next two weeks Wilson took the crucial steps which led to the full participation of the United States in the Allied war effort.

On March 22, 1917 Wilson approved the immediate recognition of the new provisional government in Russia, making the United States the first nation to take this step.

Kerensky was understandably grateful; wires were sent from Moscow to Washington asking for help. Negotiations began toward establishing American credit for Russia’s economic aid. This credit, restricted to purchases from the United States, was made available by May, 1917.
In addition, the United States sent two missions to Russia. The Root Commission was designed to extend the hand of American friendship and good will to the new Russian democracy. Elihu Root, leader of the commission which bore his name, stated later that Wilson did not want to accomplish anything by the mission; it was simply “a grand-stand play” and an attempt to show American sympathy for the revolution.

When Root returned to the United States, he astounded Washington officials by announcing that Russia needed supplies more than men. Subsequently these supplies were dispatched to Vladivostok. The sadly deteriorated state of the Trans-Siberian railways, however, concerned the American officials. Thus a second commission, headed by Colonel John Stevens, went to Russia. This Railway Mission was a forerunner of the intervention.

On July 14, 1917 the provisional government had availed itself of the credit the United States had extended in May and placed orders for 500 locomotive and 10,000 cars.

The Stevens Commission reported that the railroad was badly in need of equipment before supplies could move. The most practical help from the United States would be to furnish skilled men to rehabilitate the railway.

In September, Kerensky, increasingly perturbed by conditions, officially requested an American corps of railway men to help the Russian crews adopt modern methods. This American group was assembled in October.

Fearful of the mounting Bolshevik forces trying to overthrow his government, Kerensky placed agents in many cities to advise him of conditions. They reported than many of the Bolsheviks were actually German agents.

The virulent propaganda of Lenin and Trotsky added to Kerensky’s fear. Two attempts already had been made to overthrow the Kerensky government.

By the fall of 1917 the supplies purchased in the United States had arrived at Vladivostok. They remained piled high, unable to be transported. Kerensky’s greatest fear was the utter collapse of the railway system. He hoped that the requested American railway men would arrive in time.
The United States called upon a dozen railways to supply volunteers who, according to Claire Rice, were “to instruct the Russians in a system of telephone train dispatching, and to generally help them to speed up operations on the Trans-Siberian Railway system.”The group which assembled was subsequently called the Russian Railway Service Corps, a name which has let to confusion. The Corps was composed completely of Americans.

By September, 1917 the abolition of private ownership of land, factories and mines was under discussion in Vladivostok. The Allied representatives met to consider the gravity of the situation. Consul John K. Caldwell advised Washington of the disturbing conditions.

The Allies feared Bolshevism. The populace was concerned about a possible relationship between political prospects of the Bolsheviks and the policies of the Allied governments. Caldwell recommended that an American ship visit the port, “not for the purpose of quelling disorder but with the view of making it less likely to occur.” The request, first made on October 4, 1917, was renewed by telegraph November 8th. Fearing political and social deterioration, Caldwell sought immediate action.

He felt that disturbances would interfere with the program of the Stevens Commission. Furthermore, he pointed to the likelihood of an unwelcome visit by the Japanese Navy. He knew that the Russians feared that Japan had territorial designs.

Then the Bolsheviks seized power. The history books well record the bloody Bolshevik Revolution which took place in the fall of 1917. When word reached Russian soldiers at the battlefront, the Russian war machine disintegrated. Men wandered from their posts and began the long trek home to determine the fates of their homes and loved ones. They were desperately eager to obtain adequate clothing and food; they wanted to share in the new prosperity. They imagined what it would be like to have sturdy shoes, warm clothes and a full belly.

Lenin and Trotsky led the new Bolshevik government. Headquarters were in Moscow. In the space of a few short months the Czar had been overthrown; now the provisional government was gone too. The new Bolshevik movement was spreading. Those who wanted no part of it began to leave the cities.

Russian prison gates were thrown wide by the Bolsheviks. Soon Russian criminals, political prisoners, and hordes of German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war were free to wander. The situation was chaotic. At this time there were 1,600,000 Austro-Hungarian and German prisoners of war in Russian camps at widely distributed areas in Russia proper and along the Trans-Siberian Railroad as far as Vladivostok.

The Allies became gravely concerned because a large group of Czecho-Slovaks that had defected to the Russians from the Austro-Hungarian Army now found themselves isolated in the Ukraine Republic in December, 1917. They faced the threat of a rapid advance of the German Army into that area.

It was inevitable that the prisoners of war of the Central Powers would resent the presence of their former allies, the defected Czecho-Slovaks. The power keg might explode when they met.
In addition, there were large stocks of war materials now in Russian which could conceivably fall into the wrong hands. New governments were mushrooming everywhere. The freed German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners might seize the munitions in Vladivostok and use them against the Allies. It was a frightening thought.

In November, 1917 the BROOKLYN, Flagship of the American Asiatic Fleet, arrived in Siberia. In December the Russian Railway Service Corps was also in Vladivostok. There was a possibility that the Russian Railway Service Corps would not be permitted to land for the now defunct provisional government had contracted for their services.

As early as December, 1917 there was agitation for an Allied intervention. Consul Caldwell urged that an Allied force was necessary to preserve order in Vladivostok. The United States State Department opposed the very thought of intervening. The Russian Ambassador urged the United States to oppose a rumored Japanese landing.

At the end of December the French Government reported the death of three French citizens in Irkutsk. It considered sending an expeditionary force to avenge the death of these nationals, simultaneously helping the Russians who were still true to the cause of the Entente. France felt that an intervention would protect Allied supplies and would curtail German influence in Siberia.
The British Foreign Office expressed its concern over the Japanese attitude.
The United States was against intervention.

The events of December, 1917 did not exemplify the principle of “peace on earth and good will to all mankind.” The patriotic-minded Russian Railway Service Corps was shunted our of Vladivostok and was on the way back to Japan to spend eight long months. The BROOKLYN had left the port just before the arrival of the Russian Railway Service Corps. On December 14th the USAT THOMAS arrived for a short stay.

Numerous Allied conferences were held to discuss the question of intervention. The Europeans were strongly in favor of such a course. The United States was completely against it. Japan already had soldiers in Manchuria and was eagerly awaiting and opportunity to land officially in Vladivostok. Japan merely desired American approval to justify her presence.
Chapter II

January to July 1918
Months of Decision and Indecision

When January, 1918 dawned, the Russian Railway Service Corps already had been dismissed from Vladivostok. The BROOKLYN’S short visit was over; there were only a Japanese warship and a British warship in the harbor along with the USAT THOMAS. The Allies, disgruntled by the treatment given to the Russian Railway Service Corps, wondered what provocations would follow.

By the 17th of January, the Japanese had sent four warships to Vladivostok.
Josephus Daniels, American Secretary of the Navy, was concerned and ordered the BROOKLYN to return to Vladivostok.

Wilson became more uncomfortable. Japan had by now intimated that if the Allied troops occupied Vladivostok, she and she alone should be in control of the Chinese-Eastern and Amur railroads. The President advised Japan that the United States unconditionally disapproved any military action in Siberia.

Great Britain was also informed of the American position.
When the BROOKLYN returned to Golden Horn Bay in Vladivostok, Charles H. Smith, a railroad man, diplomat and observer, was requested to attend a conference with Admiral Knight of the BROOKLYN to state his opinion of conditions in Russia. Commodore Payne of the HMS SUFFOLK, Colonel Robertson, British Military Attache at Peking, Colonel Josiah Wedgwood, M.P., head of the Wedgwood Pottery Works in England, and Captain Althouse, Commander of the BROOKLYN, attended the conference. Smith told them:

“As with one voice the country cries our for goods. The people are dissatisfied because they have nothing. Their unrest was caused, not by political ideas, but by lack of supplies. It was not that the peasants were poor. They had money but money was useless except as purchasing power, and they could not purchase because they had no access to supplies.”

“If the World War were over and the Czar was still in power they would be no better off. If fact they had been in more or less the same situation in 1916, before the Revolution.”
He recalled the previous prediction of one of the Russian grain buyers who intimated there would be serious trouble if the peasants continued to get nothing but paper for their grain. They were grumbling at doing a year’s labor for paper which had no purchasing power.
On March 3, 1918, the Treaty of Brest-Litovisk was signed. It provided a separate peace between the Bolsheviks and Germans, causing consternation in Allied sectors. It gave Germany a legal excuse to intervene if she desired. Japan felt the treaty also gave her the right to intervene in order to prevent the movement of the freed German prisoners of war across Siberia to the Pacific coast.

The condition with relation to Siberia was a serious one. Americans were justifiably concerned with the encroachment of Germany and Japan upon a weakened Russia. As Germany was an enemy and Japan an ally, an incongruous situation existed.

European diplomats, who had already predicted dire results if military supplies in Vladivostok fell into the hands of the released German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners and marauding band, now fervently believed an Allied intervention was necessary to protect those supplies.

At this time the Czecho-Slovaks were travelling eastward across Siberia, ostensibly to return to Europe via Vladivostok to oppose the Germans on the Western Front. Although the Czecho-Slovaks never had been permitted to become part of any Russian army, they had managed to retain their own identity by forming a Czecho-Slovak Legion. Battalions of the Legion were not at first directly affected by the Revolution and continued toward Vladivostok. They informed the Bolshevik authorities that their one desire was to reach that city.

The Bolsheviks assured the Czecho-Slovaks free passage if they would give up their arms. The latter agreed and arrangements were made. The result was perhaps the first great betrayal of trust by the Bolsehvik regime. En route to Vladivostok the Czecho-Slovaks were suddenly attacked along the Trans-Siberian railway by the Bolsheviks. The Czecho-Slovaks were assaulted by the very arms they had left in the custody of the Bolsheviks. There were also occasional assaults by former German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war.

Under the command of an enthusiastic young Czecho-Slovak officer, Rudolf Gaida, a gallant fight ensued. Determination to fight on to Vladivostok against the almost insurmountable odds was spearheaded by the knowledge that some 20,000 Czecho-Slovaks were already in that port city.

At this time the German spring offensive had penetrated the Allied lines on the Western Front.

The governments of France, Italy and Great Britain remained convinced that a forceful intervention was necessary. Japan was economically in need of a foothold on the Asian mainland. With American intervention Japan was offered a pretext to set foot on the territory she desired.

The United States, however, continued to show no enthusiasm for the Allied intervention. She knew she would have to assume the major burden in Siberia, for the impoverished nations of Europe would be able to offer but token aid.
From Vladivostok came wires from the commanders of the Allied Fleet that Bolsheviks were making inroads on the stockpiled supplies. They deemed a landing absolutely necessary for protection of Allied stores.

As early attempted to come to a conclusion on intervention, the picture appeared grim to the Allied diplomats pacing smoke-filled rooms far from the scene.
As early as February, 1918 American Ambassador Roland S. Morris in Tokyo reported increasing Japanese military activity, including troop concentrations at west coast ports. Two divisions already had been sent to Korea.

It was apparent that the Japanese preparations anticipated a full-scale intervention even at that early date.

The rapid course of events pointed toward intervention by the rest of the Allies; yet Wilson remained steadfast in his desire to keep American troops out of Siberia, where problems were many-sided. German spies abounded; prisoners of war were at liberty; American interests were in danger; Japan, a potential threat, already had landed troops. The latter fact was of prime concern to Wilson for he knew that Japanese troops had not been wearied by the war in Europe.

The general Czecho-Slovak uprising against the Bolsheviks began in May, 1918. By June the Czecho-Slovaks were in dire need of clothing, ammunition and food. Yet the general morale of their troops never wavered although their units were often separated and harassed by attacks.

Wilson must have paced the floor in his stages of decision and indecision, for he could not see any clear-cut action to take. He had no intention of backing down on his famous Fourteen Points wherein he formally committed himself, and the American government, not to interfere in Russian affairs.

Furthermore, the idealistic Wilson had been extremely sympathetic to those who had overthrown the tyrannic Czarist regime. He hoped these “democratic peoples” would eventually form a truly democratic government.

If the President absolutely refused to intervene and Japan and other Allies went forward to Siberia without the United States, Japan might gain the feared foothold. Our presence might restrain Japanese ambitions. But Wilson could not violate his Fourteen Points.

As he weighted the problems he continued to receive communiques. In the late spring he was electrified by the news that the Czecho-Slovaks were stranded without arms. He was alerted to their needs, their problems and their enemies. Urgency was the keynote; the Czecho-Slovaks needed immediate help.

One summer evening Wilson gazed out across the green lawns of the White House. The city lights began to glow. The plight of the Czecho-Slovaks, so far removed from Washington, stirred something within the President. The plight of those gallant men offered him the moral reason needed to submit to Allied requests for intervention. Free democratic men needed the assistance of the United States of America. Wilson decided he would offer the aid of the American Army to facilitate the Czecho-Slovak exodus from Siberia. He had a profound regard and sympathy for the heroic efforts of the Czecho-Slovaks. That summer night he was

Now Wilson could live up to his hands-off policy in Russian affairs. The hour was getting late. He paced his study alone. It was July 17, 1918. Then he sat down and wrote his historical “Aide Memoire.” In the dead of might he seated himself at his old, now famous, typewriter and produced the document which was to guide our policy in Siberia.
Wilson instructed Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War, to give the Aide Memoire to Major General Graves in Kansas City. Washington alerted the Philippine Department, and the first of 10,000 men were soon on their way to Vladivostok. The rest is the story of The Siberian Sojourn.

Part II
The BROOKLYN

Chapter III

The Sailors and The Marines On The BROOKLYN
To March 1, 1918

Nine months before the American Expeditionary Forces arrived in Siberia, the BROOKLYN, Flagship of the Asiatic Fleet, paid a courtesy call at Vladivostok. It arrived at 2:30 pm, November 23, 1917, in bitter cold weather. A Russian icebreaker cut through eight feet of ice to get the BROOKLYN into dock.

The visit was an aftermath of one made by the Root Commission which had made such a good impression the Admiral Knight, Commanding Officer of the Asiatic Fleet, was told to proceed to Siberia for the sake of further goodwill.

The BROOKLYN was the largest ship of the Asiatic Fleet. It carried over six hundred naval officers and men and a company of marines.

Emmitt Hoskins was a sailor on the BROOKLYN. In Los Angeles he had attended Polytechnic High School and worked as an auto mechanic’s helper in his spare time. Although he had often looked in at the Tribune and Evening Express where his father was managing editor, young Hoskins had paid little heed to the devastating new of the war until the United States entered in 1917. With patriotic fevor he enlisted and was elated when he was accepted by the United States Navy.

Apparently printer’s ink was in Hoskins’ blood, for he kept a valuable and copious diary of his experiences while serving on the BROOKLYN. From that record we learn he was drafted and assigned to the First Division.

At Manila the BROOKLYN coaled ship and took on supplies. Here the sailor had a glimpse of a new world. His first shock came when his division officer was killed during the coaling operation. The stunned sailor found that he was detailed to attend his first military funeral.
Shortly thereafter the BROOKLYN sailed for Vladivostok with Admiral Austin M. Knight, Captain Althouse and Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Estes.

The sailors were genuinely fond of their officers. Frank Lederer, another BROOKLYN tar, reported specifically, “We had two of the greatest officers ever aboard the BROOKLYN in Admiral Knight and Captain Althouse.” He added that the cooks and stewards were all Chinese and the ship’s musicians were Filipinos.

The BROOKLYN had achieved naval fame in her service in Santiago Harbor during the Spanish-American War.

In his diary Hoskins wrote glowingly of “his” ship: “The BROOKLYN was a twin-screw, coal-burning, man-of-war with three very lofty stacks for her Scotch boilers. Her cruising speed was about fifteen knots. Her masts were very lofty with fighting tops with three huge searchlights in the foretop and smaller ones on the main mast.”

“Her armament consisted of eight 8-inch guns, mounted twin in turrets fore and aft, and on each beam amidship. Her secondary battery consisted of about ten 5-inch guns.”

“I am impressed by the engineering skill of her construction and of the fire control system. She has armor at her water-line, extending well forward and aft, and the coffer-dams inside of her armor belt, double bottoms, water-tight peaks and bulkheads and a double-thick protected deck below the berth deck. Her conning tower and turrets were well armored. Telephone and voice tubes were installed at all important stations.”

“She is kept in a marvelous state of preservation. Her peaks, coffer-dams, and double bottoms are gone over for rust, chipped, scraped, wire-brushed and red-leaded. The double bottoms below the magazines are painted white. [Later Hoskins was to say that ever since his service on the BROOKLYN he disliked slovenliness and could not bear to see waste of expensive materials.]”

“The guns were given every care, the bores, breeches shined and oiled, the gun pointer’s lenses were always cleaned with tissue paper to keep them free of scratches.”

George E. Miller, another Californian, became a naval printer first class when the BROOKLYN took on stores in Manila on November 15, 1917. He reports that rumor pointed to Shanghai as a possible destination. However, when the BROOKLYN sailed at 1:30 pm, November 17th, the destination was announced as Vladivostok, Siberia. On the 19th she passed Formosa. “The seas were heavy and the weather cold.” On the 23rd she nosed into Vladivostok and was given a warm and lusty welcome.

Hoskins described the two large bays: “The city separates them and one of the points in called Golden Horn. The city is built around the eastern bay on hills. When we came to anchor the Captain made a flying moor to spread the anchors and then we had a Russian tug pull our stern. The tug placed three lighters between our gangway and the dock and then the stern was well moored and the anchor chains were given proper strain. We were moored in the western part of the harbor in plain sight of the railway station and about a half-mile from the docks which were on our west.”

“Admiral Knight had chosen his location well for we were within ten minutes walk to the main part of town and to the American Consul’s office. The Russian navy yard was bout a mile to the east. On the extreme eastern end of the bay there were dry docked locks and a fine level area that we later used for a baseball field.”

The fraternal feeling of the crew aboard the BROOKLYN was expressed by Andrew Dusold: “We had a fine lot of lads on the BROOKLYN and I think they were better, as a group, than those in the army.”

This was a paradoxical statement for a man who was born in a major general’s home in an army fort. Dusold’s father had been an Indian fighter. In 1891 Andrew Dusold had been born in the home of Major General George O. Squires at Ft. McHenry, Maryland. In 1902 Dusold’s father had received a discharge from the army as a result of an injury suffered in the Spanish-American War. Hard days followed for he earned only six dollars a week to support his wife and four children.

At the age of twelve, young Dusold went to work, receiving two dollars a week for seventy-eight hours’ work. He had little schooling but “a big yen to see the world.” Later, in spite of his army background, he joined the navy. He never regretted it.

Printer Miller kept an accurate diary. He notes in December, 1917: “We were the first American forces on Siberian soil. We arrived just two weeks after the overthrow of the Kerensky Government and nine months before the arrival of the first United States army contingents.”

leave. Only a handful of petty officers were allowed off the ship at one time. Uncertain shore conditions resulted in constant warnings regarding conduct. Staying overleave was considered a most serious offense. Up to four-hours’ overleave drew a summary court-martial with a typical loss of thirty days’ pay and thirty-days’ restriction to ship. Four hours or more overleave subjected a man to a general court-martial with a penalty of up to eighteen months imprisonment. These extreme penalties were meted out to those who stayed ashore. There were many offenders.

This report is at variance with the account given by George F. Kennan in his book. He states that the men of the BROOKLYN had liberty after listening to a talk by the commanding officer. This talk was slanted to the various ways men could assist in forwarding the purpose of the visit. They were strongly admonished again concerning the importance of showing America in a kindly and dignified light. To shame one’s self is to shame one’s country was the essence of the lectures. “Above all keep away from liquor and women,” the officer warned.

The sailors listened attentively to the lecture. When the officers left there was a series of catcalls! The sailors could not wait to get on shore to find wine, women and song.

Kennan observes that the result of the conduct lecture was excellent and that only two minor examples of disorder occurred. The bearing of the men, he claims, was in all respects admirable. The example they set for the Russian sailors and soldiers, especially in the punctiliousness with which officers of both nations were saluted, had a marked effect on the manner of the Russians themselves.

It seems, however, that sailor Miller should know whereof he spoke. As one of the ship’s printers, he was aware of the general courts-martial orders giving name, offense and sentence. Apparently there were many such orders. They were printed on 6″ x 9″ sheets and distributed to the Asiatic Fleet for posting on bulletin boards.

After Miller went aboard he printed the general courts-martial orders of two seamen convicted of homosexual offenses. One man received twenty years’ and the other ten years’ confinement in the Naval Prison, Mare Island, California.

When trouble was afoot in town, liberty was cancelled. Sometimes the men could witness gunfire ashore, but such incidents were never officially explained.

Once in town, the men had to adapt themselves to unfamiliar customs. Sugar, which they took so for granted, was very coarse. In the restaurants coffee, the familiar drink they were wont to enjoy black, or with milk and sugar, was spiked with vodka.

Girls, always a favorite sight for sailors, were plentiful on Svetlanskaya Street. They openly occosted the men, using motions to replace a common language. The men who so often bragged of their powers with women laughed at those who hesitated to rush off to sleep with these strange foreign-speaking girls.

Lawrence Spuur, who had joined the marines in San Francisco in 1916, had received his basic training at Mare Island, California. At the end of the training period he had been given a choice of service in the Far East or in Mexico where General Pershing was pursuing Pancho Villa. Spuur had no desire for Mexico with its heat, dust, cactus and sagebrush. He requested sea service in China. A month later he was in the Marine Receiving Station at Cavite, Philippine Islands, where he was stationed for two weeks. He then shipped out on the BROOKLYN. Spuur reports: “I soon learned this was the madhouse of the Asiatic Fleet. I enjoyed travels along the China coast and visited older cities, the Great Wall, Temples and Pagadas.”

He recalled one terrible storm when he thought his end was near. He was washed from port to starboard side where, luckily, he was able to grasp and hold a lifeline. A sergeant rushed to pull him back on deck. He wondered how much more he would have to live through before arriving in Siberia.

Upon arrival, Spuur says the men were told “to leave vodka strictly alone.” The officers were so adamant in their intent to discover liquor on the breaths of sailors or marines that each man was given a cursory examination. If the faintest trace of liquor was detected, the culprit was forced to walk the line. If found to waver, he was called drunk and arraigned for a summary court-martial.
In spite of all the admonitions, the men did not heed the advice. They were young and anxious to make the most of whatever liberty hours they were given.

In town there were so many rumors it was difficult to differentiate between rumor and truth. The revolution was over; yet many Russian soldiers were seen wearing parts of the old Czarist army uniform. Hoskins concluded that those soldiers had nothing else to wear.

On December 2nd a large number of the ship’s crew was entertained by the sailors of the Russian fleet. A huge banquet, replete with sumptuous food and French wine, was held in a palatial building. There was a band and much hilarity. The Russians delivered several propaganda speeches in English in an effort to convert the Americans to the cause of Bolshevism. The BROOKLYN men returned the treat on December 8th by inviting one hundred sailors from the Russian fleet to a smoker.

Leave was always eagerly awaited. The town was wide open, and there were pretty girls in the various houses on Kopek Hill.

The men found much amusement at calling one of the houses “The Blue Front” so they could write home and tell their folks that they were engaged in “The Battle of the Blue Front.”
Hoskins said that many of the men actually felt sorry for the girls who had to ply their trade for it was noted that many hands were unaccustomed to work; sadness lurked behind the facade of smiles. Some of the girls had fled European Russia; a few were believed to have been of royal blood.

They had all faced incredible ware experiences, Hoskins observed. “For some of them their only possibility of eating and living was to become a hostess in a ‘red’ house.”

The first stay in Vladivostok was a short but memorable one. It gave most of the men something to talk about after they weighed anchor at 9:20 am, December 11, 1918 and began the return to Manila.

Marine Eugene Streed recalls that on January 6, 1918 his machine gun company boarded the BROOKLYN at Manila.

Streed had not seen much of the world but had twenty-three years of travel in the States. Born in Illinois in 1895, he had moved to Wyoming in 1909 and then to Missouri, back to Illinois, and finally in 1915 had arrived in California. In 1917 he had enlisted in the Marine Corps and was sworn in July 6th. After training he was sent to Cavite where he joined the BROOKLYN on January 6, 1918. He went aboard when the BROOKLYN was taking on stores. After having finished coaling, he was assigned to carrying beef to the refrigerator. The commissary steward told Streed: “Help pile the beef. I want to get as much as possible in the inner room.” When the refrigerator was filled the steward expressed amazement at the record quantity of meat that had been stacked. The young marine had done so fine a job that the steward reassigned him to this detail repeatedly.

Relationships between the sailors and marines were strained as fifty second-class seamen had to leave ship to provide quarters for the marines. When the latter reported, they were assigned stations and told where to sling their hammocks. Soon they were familiar with the day’s routine.
Reveille was at 5 am. Hammocks were lashed and stored before one long blast of the bugle. Coffee was served at 5:15 am. From 5:30 to 7:30 am they would wash down the decks and do work noted in the morning’s Order Book. Then came breakfast for a fast thirty minutes and colors at 8 am. At 8:30 am there was sick call and at 8:45 am, officers call. This was followed by exercises, drills and general ship’s work.

They had dinner at noon. At 12:30 pm the ship’s band provided good music on the forecastle head. The afternoon was filled with another few hours of drill, work and colors. Then came supper and finally taps at 9 pm.

In addition to the usual drills the men had bag inspections, hammock inspections, fire and rescue drills, abandon ship drills, swimming parties and torpedo defense drills.

The BROOKLYN returned to Vladivostok March 1, 1918. The Japanese were not far behind, landing on April 5th.

Chapter IV
The BROOKLYN
March to August 1918

The men on the BROOKLYN had been eager to return to Vladivostok. Spring would soon be upon them, and Golden Horn Bay would be a beautiful spot in which to spend a few weeks.
Upon arrival, however, ice was everywhere. At 12:30 pm, March 1st, a Russian icebreaker met them to clear their entry into the harbor. Two Japanese transports, two Japanese men-of-war, and the British cruiser HMS SUFFOLD were in port. A Japanese cruiser stood out as they entered the harbor. The BROOKLYN moored at 4 pm.

On March 6th the men were given afternoon liberty. Again they found excitement in town with vodka, girls and anyone able to speak English. When they returned to the ship at 6 pm, they found all hands at quarters.

Miller reported in his diary that the Red Guards and White Guards were expected to engage in hostilities at 7 pm in Vladivostok. “Our land force was issued rifles, ammunition belts and knapsacks and stood by at 7 pm to go ashore to protect American interests.”
The landing forces mustered at 7 pm but did not go ashore. The anticipated trouble did not materialize. Nevertheless, all men slept fully equipped.

Liberty was soon resumed, and the men were in and out of Vladivostok until March 12th when one of the Americans contracted smallpox. According to Miller it was a type which did not respond to American vaccinations. As a result, a total of fourteen men died during the next several months.

Miller’s diary, a reliable source of information, mentioned that on April 5th, at 5:00 am, a force from one of the Japanese men-of-war landed on the docks off the starboard bow. At 5:30 they moved along the waterfront until almost off the BROOKLYN’s stern. Then they turned toward the town. The marines aboard the ship stood by fully equipped. At 6:30 am Captain Althouse, the Commanding Officer, Lt. Commander Estes, the Executive Officer, and Captain Luby, USMC, went ashore. At 7 am two Japanese whale boats and a picket-boat, mounting a machine gun, discharged stores on the dock astern of the BROOKLYN. At 8 am the Japanese seized the Russian tug “BOIKI.”

At 1:30 pm a detachment of marines from the HMS SUFFOLK, consisting of forty men, landed and marched in the direction of the British Consulate.

The BROOKLYN had been cleared for action at 8 am. The Japanese landing force from the battleship ASAHI consisted of one hundred and sixty men.

Everyone was tense. The men wondered if war had come. The stirring events had started early in the morning and it was now evening. There was no liberty. They simply waited.

On April 6th at 5:30 in the morning, a party from the Japanese battleship IWAMI landed on the dock to starboard and moved off in the direction of the Japanese section of the town. Miller reports that this party consisted of two hundred men. The BROOKLYN’s crew was on the alert.
In spite of continuous tension all that day, no overt acts occurred. On the 7th of April liberty was resumed for petty officers. Conditions in town seemed quiet, but proclamations posted by the Japanese Admiral stated that the landing of armed forces had been occasioned by the murder of two Japanese subjects and added that the Japanese armed force was stationed at that country’s consulate.
More rumors arose and liberty ceased again. The latest rumor concerned 1500 Austrians, disguised as Russians, who had advanced upon the town and were frightening the inhabitants. In addition, the smallpox fear still beset the men; a number of their buddies had died. All personnel were vaccinated. On April 15th another death resulted. The victim was the ship’s cook, Nicholson. The presence of the dread disease in the ship’s kitchen caused further consternation among the men.

On April 17th Miller noted that “a two-stacked Chinese cruiser, the ‘HAI-YUNG,’ stood in and anchored off our port bow. This was the first participation of that nation in the Vladivostok affair.”

By this time men of many countries were seen in and around the harbor. On the 20th Belgians arrived from the Eastern Front. There was word they would be transported to the Western Front, via the United States, and that they would sail in a few days on an army transport. Then the USAT SHERIDAN put in. Two hundred Italian soldiers, arriving from Peking, embarked with the Belgians; fifteen men from the BROOKLYN also left on the SHERIDAN.

Strange experiences aboard the BROOKLYN are remembered. Eugene Streed recalled the day when one of the marine majors went berserk. He drew his sabre and rushed toward the officers in the wardroom.

“Look out,” someone yelled as they saw him approach.
A quick thinker grabbed a huge tablecloth, threw it over the major, disarmed him and then had him tied up until the next transport arrived.

One man who stood watch over the prisoner said, “he was really tricky.” He remained silent as long as anyone was there, but if left alone with the guard, even for a moment, he would ask the latter very rationally to temporarily loosen one hand. Of course the guard never dared comply.

That same day a sailor who was slated to work in the machine ship went insane and had to be confined in the brig. Streed was selected to stand the watch at 8 am. The doctor and two hospital attendants were trying to get the patient to take a capsule.

“Come on,” the doctor said, “take this capsule. It will do you good.”

The sailor nodded his head but just stood there and held the capsule. Then one of the attendants, following the doctor’s advice, gently urged the man to sit down.

“Now,” said the doctor, putting the capsule in one hand and handing him a glass of water, “put this in your other hand and be a good fellow and take it.”

The sailor nodded again but still just sat there. They had given him a tin cup and filled it so full that the water stood slightly above the rim of the cup. Then the doctor ordered everyone else out of the room and said he felt the sailor would make the connection and take the capsule after they closed the door.

Nearly four hours later, at noon, Streed opened the door to show his relief man that the sailor was still there.

“Can you imagine my amazement,” Streed asked, “when I found the sailor still there stock-still holding the capsule in one hand and the cup of water in the other? And he had not spilled a single drop. I am sure no sane man could have held a cup like that for four hours.”

Miller reported about this incident in his diary under date of May 3rd: “S______, a fireman, and Major______, Fleet Marine Officer, both of whom went insane a few days ago were transferred under restraint to a vessel of the Russian Volunteer Fleet for transportation to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Yokohoma.”

He also reported: “today is Russian Easter and everything in town is closed. Russian naval vessels are in full dress.”

March and April had been cold months and the men had suffered for the want of warm clothes. They were incensed to learn that there were adequate clothes on board ship. The officials had simply refused to issue them as the BROOKLYN was expected to leave in the early spring; but by now the weather was warmer and the men chose to believe that the frigid winds had ceased. Nevertheless, they were still irritated over their treatment regarding the issuance of clothing.
Spring was welcome, not only for the warmer weather, but for promised entertainment. Track and field meets were arranged and there was talk of boat races on Memorial Day. The first rack and field meet between the USS BROOKLYN and the HMS SUFFOLK took place on May 18th. The score was: BROOKLYN -89 2/3 points, SUFFOLK – 10 1/3 points. The boat races were held on Memorial Day. There were memorial services at the warehouse near the docks. On June 1st a gymnastics exhibition was held. It was a Czecho-Slovak spectacular with some 20,000 in attendance.

Streed said the BROOKLYN men made many friends in the city and they all like the Czecko-Slovaks who seemed to return the compliment as they invited the Americans to the gymnastic event.

There were locations for 1200 men on the field. The Czecho-Slovaks marched in with bands playing the din of cheers in their ears. After taking their places, with the excellent Czecho-Slovak band continually playing, the men went through their exercises. There were all manner of drills. One particularly interesting one included the caring of a wooden sledge hammer with which the Czecho-Slovaks drilled.

It seemed unlikely that any athlete could beat the well-trained Czecho-Slovaks at anything. But on June 8th there was another track and field meet between the BROOKLYN team and the Czecho-Slovaks. The BROOKLYN won 55 to 45. There was no containing the exuberant winners.
The USAT LOGAN arrived at port on June 24, 1918 but sailed again on the 25th. It carried a contingent of homeward-bound men from the BROOKLYN, and at the 6 am sailing time all hands manned the BROOKLYN rails to cheer loudly for those who were leaving.

After that thing began to go along pretty much according to the day-by-day routine with leisure in town breaking the monotony. Occasionally something different was on the agenda. Such was the case on June 26th when a performance of a Russian opera was given on shore especially for the men of the BROOKLYN.

The men began to wonder if their tour of duty was to consist only of track meets, ball games and Russian operas. Suddenly, at the end of June, all hell broke loose. It was a day to live in memory.
The Czecho-Slovaks had been gathering in Vladivostok, and those not in the city were now fighting along the railway line. In the city the Bolsheviks were holed up in a large building. Fighting began and could be heard not only in the city but also in the harbor. In fact, the navy men watched in amazement the exploding shells and heard the shattering din as they lined the upper deck of the BROOKLYN. It was the only real action some of the men ever saw, and it happened before the United States was officially in the campaign!

Without doubt the Bolsheviks believed they had the edge on the Czecho-Slovaks for they had more ammunition and had the advantage of position in the ancient buildings. The Czecho-Slovaks had no artillery heavy enough to penetrate the thick walls of the buildings.

But the Czecho-Slovaks were not to be outdone. Ever resourceful, they diligently began making handmade grenades and threw them with precision through the battered windows of the buildings. It was a gruesome sight to watch, with swirls of smoke rising everywhere and the rat-a-tat-tat of guns resounding throughout the city. Men and women were running and screaming. There seemed to be no sanctuary anywhere. Even homes did not seem to be safe. But it was all over almost as soon as it started. The handmade grenades were effective. The Russians soon surrendered. Five of them had been killed in the fracas. The Czecho-Slovaks were in possession of Vladivostok.

Later in the afternoon the marines landed and posted a guard over the American Consulate. It had been a long day, for the sniping had started in the streets in the early morning when the Bolsheviks had refused to disarm on the order of the Czecho-Slovaks. Landing forces from the Japanese and British men-of-war had also gone ashore, and a landing party of Chinese had been seen leaving their cruiser in the afternoon.

The Bolsheviks were completely surrounded in a big building opposite the railway station. At times machine guns were still heard. When the fighting was over in the late afternoon, it was learned that two Czecho-Slovaks also had been killed.

The Japanese took over the several torpedo boats of the Russian Navy and placed armed guards aboard.

The Consulate guard from the BROOKLYN consisted of thirty men. With precision they marched up to the Consulate’s office.

On the 30th, according to Miller’s diary, a number of German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of the Czecho-Slovaks, and a few Czecho-Slovak deserters, were executed. The Bolsheviks were released. The Americans could not comprehend these actions.

In the days that followed there was much talk about the battle. The men of the BROOKLYN had a much more comfortable feeling knowing that the Czecho-Slovaks were in command of the situation. But they did not like the mute evidence of disturbance wherever they looked, bullet-riddled buildings, broken windows, gaping holes and debris everywhere.

The men were constantly asking officers for details. Finally, the BROOKLYN bulletin board contained a report of the background and happenings on the June event.
The following is a transcript of the report as written by Emmett Hoskins in his diary. Historical inaccuracies and opinions expressed must be tolerated in view of the relatively early date of this report.

“The Czechoslovakians inhabit a portion of Austria which is entirely populated by people of their own blood. For three hundred years they have attempted to establish their own independence and have their own nation, and given national rights, but during all this time the Austro-German yoke had ground them down. At the outbreak of the war great numbers of Czechs were pressed into the Austrian Army. As soon as they arrived at the front, regiments and even whole divisions of Czech troops deserted bodily and went over to join the Russians in the fight against their common enemy.”

“The enemy announced that any of these men taken prisoner would be hanged. At this the Czechs replied that there would be no prisoner taken, accordingly the troops agreed that none would be taken alive, and in case of necessary retreat their wounded, who could not be carried to safety, would be killed by their own men. This was done throughout the whole war and these men have fought with the greatest bravery and desperation.”

“When Russian collapsed the Czechs gradually retreated and gathered around Kiev and on March 6, 1918, made an agreement with the Soviet Government at Moscow that the Czechs would leave Russia via Vladivostok to join the allied armies in France. The Czechs agreed to refrain from hostilities against the Russians and the Russians guarantee them safe passage to Vladivostok.”

“The Czechs stood by their agreement. On the other hand, the Russians gradually became more hostile to the Czechs and abused them, and obstructed their passage in every way possible.”
“The German influence in the Soviet, along the railway line was almost entirely responsible for this. The Czechs did nothing until they were at last treacherously attacked from ambush at the station at Irkutsk on May 25 by Red Guards of whom some were Russians and some ex-Austro-German prisoners.”

“Almost unarmed, the Czechs attacked their opponents and captured them, the city and large quantities of ammunitions. The next day the Allied Consul at Irkutsk arranged that the Czechs would give up all they had captured and would be allowed safe passage to Vladivostok.”
“Between Irkutsk and Vladivostok, about June 25, 1918, there were no Czechoslovakians but great numbers of Austro-German prisoners who the Soviets and Bolsheviks had allowed to fight the Czechs to the westward of Irkutsk. They started towards Vladivostok to fight the men here.”
“Last Friday, June 28, the Vladivostok Soviets sent ammunitions and reinforcements to the Red Guards and the Austro-Germans to be used against the Czechs. The Czech authorities here next day presented an ultimatum demanding it to be stopped. The Soviets refused to comply and Czechs, as a result, took the town so that they might be able to help their comrades still back in Siberia.”
“At Nilolsk, which is only three hours by train from here, the enemy was gathering his forces, and soon as the Czechs had made the town secure the English, Japanese and our sailors landed to hold the town for the Czechs while they sent all their men, that could be spared, to Nikolsk to fight the enemy in the battle which resulted in the Czechs being victorious, but they lost heavily because of poor arms and equipment. It was discovered that the enemy forces did consist of 6,000 ex Austro-German war prisoners and about 300 to 500 of the Russian Red Guard.”
Frank Lederer gave another version. He said that the Czecho-Slovaks had turned over their arms to the Bolsheviks during the month but had kept their grenades.

“The Czechs had been guaranteed safe passage but had to fight their way. Upon arrival in Vladivostok they were attacked by the Bolsheviks. The Czechs won. Those that were left were taken prisoners.”

He adds that this happened two blocks from the ship. The Czecho-Slovak troops who died were given a military funeral. “Our warehouse, behind our ship, was the hospital for the wounded. Fleet surgeon Dr. Angwen did all the operating. There was no anesthetic at all. The poor Czechs only had a cigar [sic] in their mouths when they were operated on.”

The June battles with their horror were felt keenly by the men on the BROOKLYN as they participated in helping the wounded. Thus it was that the warehouse, which had previously been converted to a hospital to help the disabled Czecho-Slovaks from out on the line, was now put into use again. The Allied doctors cared for the casualties. There were about ninety patients. Some were taken aboard the BROOKLYN and some were cared for on the SUFFOLK.

The Americans had closely followed the tactics of the ingenious Czecho-Slovaks who, with inadequate fire power to penetrate the enemy stronghold, had improvised had grenades. By spirited use of these grenades they had penetrated the Folshevik defenses. “That was sheer genius,” said one man, “for in no time the Russians were surrounded. The buildings told the story of the battle.”

Military activity was increasing. On July 1st four torpedo boats of the Russian navy anchored in stream off the Chinese HAI-YUNG. On the 3rd of July the American sailors and marines went ashore to inspect the battle scenes.

On the 4th of July the Russians held a funeral for their casualties of the June battle with the Czecho-Slovaks. They paraded up the main street and around the front of the railroad depot where there was a wide open area. There were some five thousand in the procession. Long speeches were made with many gestures. From the station the entourage preceded up a street that passed the American Consulate. At the Consulate they called in Russian for the Consul. The latter’s young son, about ten years of age, stepped out to greet them. Speaking in Russian, he said that he was sorry that his father was not at home. The Russians held the coffins high above their heads and screamed “Amerikanski” several times.

Some of the marines were watching in awe. They were relieved when the youngster told them the Russians were not angry but were cheering the Americans. With this news, the procession began to move out to the cemetery.

The Consulate had not been on the direct path to the burying ground. More than one man wondered what this detour signified. As the procession made its way along the street it again passed within sight of the BROOKLYN. Flags fluttered in the breeze and colored ribbons decorated the ship for the men were celebrating the 4th of July. One marine felt rather sad that they were so gay and festive with such a mournful funeral passing before them. Later it was generally decided that the Russians thought the ship was decorated in respect to their dead and that they had taken the detour to the Consulate to return the compliment.

Adjacent to the ship’s moorings was a large warehouse which had been full of rice. When one of the ship’s officers decided to hold a smoker, the men were detailed to move the rice to one end of the building. By doubling the height of the tiers, an area for the smoker was provided. Then the ship’s carpenters built a good ring and seats capable of seating officers and crew. Soon afterward the BROOKLYN held its entertainments there. These included boxing and wrestling matches and vaudeville show. The Americans had good athletes, many of whom had been professionals before the war.

When the BROOKLYN men won against the British, the latter were good sports. Yet, in spite of this comradeship, one instance occurred which stood out in the memory of the men; it seemed so unlike the cooperative spirit of the British. Streed recalled that the English Recreation Officer proposed to the BROOKLYN Recreation Officer that the HMS SUFFOLK compete with them in boat races. It seemed like a good idea until it came to the question of boats.

As the United States had whale boats and English had cutters, the boats were not comparable. “Our officer said they could lend us a cutter and we would lend them a whale boat and they could race in whatever boat they decided. They decided on the whale boat and took one from practice,” Streed reported.

“We took one of their cutters to keep the boat complement even but the race crew was never in the cutter until the morning scheduled for the race. That was July 4th. Our race crew was made up of five men. Shortly before race time our crew did some practice rowing.”

“All of a sudden the English sent word that they decided not to race. Our crew did everything possible to get the race, even offering the British to race in their cutter, but nothing could get them out. They were adamant in their refusal. They returned our boat and we held some races between various divisions of the ship. We were all disgusted with them and thought it didn’t speak very well of British sportsmanship, especially since it was their idea in the first place.”
Some wondered later, if on July 4th, the British, noting the festive decorations of the BROOKLYN, had realized it was our celebration of American Independence and had decided not to help us celebrate that day. There seemed to be no other explanation.

If such was the case it did not matter as there was other pomp and circumstance. By noon the BROOKLYN was decked to the mastheads and had the international signal flags out. At exactly noon it fired a twenty-one gun salute with its nine-pound saluting battery. All the Allied ships of war in port answered gun for gun. Hoskins says, “It was a fantastic honor to our country and our flagship.”

With the 4th of July celebration over, the Americans looked for other diversions. Across the bay from the BROOKLYN there lay some obsolete small submarines. Some of the hulls had been rusted through. Don E. Dean suggested to Streed that they try to get a closer look. He said, “Maybe we can get into one of them. They are out of the water on cribbing on the beach.”
The marines decided on one particular sub and climbed to the top without any trouble. While they were busy getting a hatch open, a watchman came out of a shanty and ordered them down at once. “It had never occurred to us there would be any guard over such a piece of junk, and as the man seemed quite friendly, we laughed and waved, but kept working on the hatch. Suddenly the guard became serious. We tried to explain that we could not speak Russian.

“He was getting angrier and suddenly,” said Streed, “he pulled out the biggest revolver we had ever seen. It looked as big as a rain barrel to me. All at once we understood what he was saying and came down. I guess the gun spoke a universal language.”

Streed recalled reading a book by Simon Lake a few years afterwards. It concerned the development of the latter’s submarine. The marine learned that he had sold one to Russia during the Russo-Japanese war. It was taken by ship across the Atlantic, then by train to Vladivostok. From the description given in the book Streed felt positive that the smaller of the submarines they had seen in far-off Siberia that day was Lake’s brainchild.

The ships in the harbor were also of interest to the sailors. Hoskins remembered that they occasionally would see a Russian torpedo boat leave or enter the harbor. It would fly the Czar’s old Russian man-of-war ensign. He said quite a few liberties were devoted to observing the customs of the port and the ships therein.

“I boarded Japanese merchant ships and Russian ships and found Russian steamers had white crews and some of the men spoke English. Many White Russians were taking their families to China aboard passenger ships and many had to travel in a crowded steerage.”

“The Mongolians did all the alongshore work. The Russian steamers were equipped with two booms…the Mongolians preferred to use the more antique way – the swinging boom method of loading and discharging cargo; that is, they just used one boom instead of two.”

I boarded the Italian steamer and was surprised to see what a good forecastle they had. In many ways they had the advantage of other maritime nations’ ships for they had good bunks, tales, benches and chest, plus two large barrels of wine. I have seen British merchant vessels in which the food was brought down from the galley and placed on pans on the deck and the crew would help themselves before going to the table or bench to eat. That’s the way the food was handled on the BROOKLYN but that is American man-of-war style. All American merchant steamers have mess boys to wait on tables for the crews.”

“I found both the British and the Italians friendly and the Italians shared their wine with us.”

“One time my friend, Pat Lanning, and I went aboard a Japanese merchant steamer and had quite a good time. Pat had a way about him. The Japanese steward spoke English so we had a good time drinking Japanese beer.”

On one liberty the sailor said he took a walk to the point that divided the two bays and found a Russian flotilla of torpedo boats similar to ones in the navy yard. Since they were laid up, he boarded one and found a watchman who spoke perfect English. Unlike the gun-chasing watchman that faced Streed and Dean, this watchman welcomed the sailor aboard and showed him topside.

On another occasion Hoskins and a friend saw a sampan with two Russian passengers. It came from across the bay “which I believe used to be part of the Czar’s park” and passed two Japanese battleships. One passenger was a tall, middle-aged man wearing a Russian army uniform. Hoskins said that as the man passed close by he would shake his fist at the Japanese battleship and make ugly faces. Then to the BROOKLYN he would bow low and smile. “Surely many of the Russians were friends of the Americans and feared that the Japanese would take over their country. I cannot help but believe that if it were not for the U.S. and her armed forces they would have done just that.”

Watching the ships and talking to the sailors of many nations were not all that interested sailor Hoskins. He began to dream of a chance to get to shore at night. He knew that sooner or later he would find out what night life was like in Vladivostok. But the dream had to wait for warmer weather.

One day Streed was on duty in the naval yard. He experienced a phenomenon he could never explain; but, he said, “I knew it happened for I was there.”

“The navy yard extended for some two miles along the bay. Toward the east end there was an electric generating station that furnished power for much of Vladivostok. The street cars were powered by it and it was doubtful of there was any other source of such power. It was a coal-burning giant and the ground around it was strewn with cinders.”

One night while walking post, Streed’s partner received quite an electric shock as he crossed an open area behind the power plant.

“You’re crazy,” Streed told him, “you can’t get a shock without a circuit.”
“Okay, smart aleck,” his friend said, “you try it.”

Street stepped forward and found he could stand on just one foot and get quite a strong shock. “Not enough to hurt a person but it could shake you pretty well.” The marines walked around to determine the extent of the electrified area and found it to be ten by twelve feet.

When the eagerly awaited relief guards arrived they were advanced to the hot spot. “It was very funny,” said Streed, “for they did a very unmilitary dance when they got on it. I never knew of any one telling another man about that spot; he had to find it out by physically entering the area.”

Back on the BROOKLYN there was some discontent aboard, especially among the men who did not have shore leave. Some men were drinking while on duty.

Emmett Hoskins’ diary reported a story about the ship’s baker, Old Connelly, who like his liquor. Hoskins recorded: “Our flour became weevily. But the ship’s bakers could do nothing about it. The bread was anything but tasty and many of the crew who went on liberty brought back Russian black bread. That sure tasted good.

“You bought Russian bread by the pound. The Russians would take a long large loaf and cut off a piece and charge by the weight. Some of the sailors took the bread and hollowed the center out and hid vodka in the middle, covering the vodka with the bread again so they could return aboard and do their drinking.

“They didn’t know how Old Connelly got his liquor but they agreed he was the most comical navy man ever when he was drunk. He would stagger around his bake shop and the others would pay no attention to him. After all he was their boss. Some of the sailors made fun of him. He would get very angry but was usually too drunk to do anything about it.”

“He was a big strong man and wore a walrus mustache and a fierce looking old sea dog he was. He certainly looked nothing like the ship’s baker but more what you would expect a sailor to look like in centuries past. His chest and body were covered with hair. Scuttlebutt had it that someone found a sailor with crabs. He picked them off and they were emptied down Old Connelly’s neck. This brought a roar of laughter from the crew but some, like myself, never bothered the oldtimer. I had too much respect for his armful of hash marks.”

From the BROOKLYN the men were able to observe what went on aboard the SUFFOLK and also aboard the Japanese ships which were some half-mile distant. Sailor Hoskins recalled that the Japanese drilled much the same as the Americans.

“We noticed that they holly-stoned their decks from a squatting position. They would hold some kind of a contest on their quarter-deck but we were a little too far away to see the fine details. We did note that the contestants would be equipped with head and bodyguards and arm themselves with poles about six feet long and they would square off and swing the poles at each other. We could hear them crack across the water. I guess that kind of drill made them tough, alert sailors.”

“They were drilled to be skilled boatmen too. Once I saw a sailing party in one of their heavy cutters. It ran between the SUFFOLK and the BROOKLYN. The wind freshened and when they came about they were well on our quarters. There was a strong current between the two ships and the wind made the bay choppy. The coxswain had a difficult time to best out again and he had to make many short tacks once he was ‘in irons’ and had to let her fall off again before he could come about. Their training must have been as fine, in tradition, as ours. It was good seamanship that enabled him to sail out of his position but, of course, it may have been an error in allowing the boat to get into such a situation.”

On the BROOKLYN the men would be given “Dotter Drill” to determine who might be the best steady gun pointers and turret trainers.

The Dotter device was method of placing a small cardboard target in front of the gun pointers and turret trainer sights in such a way that a man on top of the turret could make them move as a target at sea would move.

The gun pointers would elevate and depress the gun keeping on the target while the trainer would keep the turret horizontally trained. At the signal to fire, the gun pointers would push the bottoms on the pointing handles and a mark or dot would be put on the target electrically. By studying the datter targets, the trainer could tell who the best marksman was.

The BROOKLYN also had a whaleboat drill at oars, and the division officer was on the “stern sheets” during the workout. Hoskins said it was really a pleasure for they pulled many miles out into the bay. On a perfect day this was especially enjoyable.

In the evening one of their greatest enjoyments was to sit back and listen to the playing of bagpipes on the forecastle of the SUFFOLK.

Hoskins recalled the afternoon on which he went with the ship’s baseball team to the ball field. While he kept score, a Czecho-Slovak soldier came over to the bench to ask him about the game. Hoskins recorded it this way in his diary: “He was a large man about 40 years old and appeared like squarehead. Anyway he was a friendly fellow and I tried to explain the game to him but as he couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Russian and could only understand a few words it was rather hard. Nevertheless we had a pleasant time and what surprised me was that he could read and pronounce the names on the score card.”

Another incident was recorded in his diary: “For a while there were large crowds of Mongolians about the docks and at our smoker-warehouse. One of my division, a seaman second class, had been on sentry duty between the warehouse and the ship’s gangway flats and it seems he bayoneted one of the Asiatics in the thigh. Later I was detailed to the same sentry post. While we had fixed bayonets we were not issued any ammunition for our Springfield rifles, which were 1906 models. I went on the dock relieving the sentry on duty and didn’t ask him if there were any special orders thinking the sentry and general orders covered everything on the post. There was a large crowd of these Mongolians and they were crowding around the warehouse and the Post. After a while I wished I had special orders but I kept the crowd back by telling them to do so. Of course, nobody could understand my English but by putting my rifle at port arms and shoving them I managed to keep the Post clear. I found it was not necessary to use violence. They looked hungry to me and that is probably why the crowd gathered.”

Hoskins realized that one wrong move might have meant his funeral, and he had been detailed to enough funerals not to want his buddies to detail for him.

While in Siberia the men had attended British, Russian, Japanese and other military funerals. Usually a small squad of about eight men and a petty officer from the BROOKLYN would march with the military funeral. There would be a horse-drawn carriage for the casket. Officers, chaplain and band would be followed by Allied squads of armed forces.

One day Hoskins was detailed to a funeral and fell in with the rest of the squad in his dress blues. He marched ashore and took a position behind the British squads. The British were burying one of their crew. Their marine band played for the long march through the main part of town over the cobblestoned streets to the cemetery. The British firing squad fired volleys in honor of the deceased, and the men quickly formed a column and returned to town.

Another time he was detailed to a Russian admiral’s funeral. It was most impressive for the Russian sailors looked well in their dress uniforms as they fired the volleys of honor over the casket. “They used live ammunition and leaves and twigs from the trees overhead came fluttering to the ground,” Hoskins said. “They did not have any blank ammunition and perhaps that suited the deceased Admiral the best in any case.” Japanese and Chinese funeral services, he added, followed a military routine.

Eugene Streed told of a patrol that was established on July 7th. The men were led by four Czecho-Slovak soldiers in charge of an officer. They were followed by eight Japanese sailors on the right; then came eight English marines. A non-commissioned officer was in charge of each squad. The idea seemed to be to show everyone a united front in favor of the Czecho-Slovaks. It was a six-mile patrol and was carried out twice daily.

One day while Streed was on patrol the group saw a crowd on a street that was not under their jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the officer marched them right into the center of the crown. The patrol dispersed the crowd at bayonet point. It turned out that the only problem was that two men had been arguing over a taxi fare and that the rest had gathered to listen. “It could have been awkward for the patrol had anyone rebelled at the intrusion.”

Clint Stephenson at a later date lauded the Admiral of the BROOKLYN for his aggressive action in the following incident: “We had a destroyer parked with a free field of fire on the depot in Vladivostok where many a skirmish took place. In came three Japanese destroyers and they were going to obstruct the fire of the flagship BROOKLYN. The Admiral hailed the Commander of the Japanese ship and requested he anchor elsewhere.”

“The Japanese answered that they could anchor where they pleased.”

“The BROOKLYN Admiral ordered to swing the guns around and suddenly the Japanese commander relented. He said, ‘Don’t shoot, we will anchor where you want us to.’
“I heard this at a Y meeting one night. The Commander of the Asiatic Fleet said we would have put up a good battle all right and if we were defeated the whole United States army would be over here.”

The weeks were turning into months and the men on the BROOKLYN began to think they would be at Vladivostok forever. Ellsworth Cooke remembered that they were briefed to use discretion in their social relationships on shore. Warnings concerning the use of drinking water on shore continued. Lawrence Spuur recalled they were also directed not to associate with any Russian women nor drink any local liquor. Upon examination anyone found to have a venereal disease was given a general court-martial.

In spite of all admonitions, most of the men could not wait to get to shore to see the women and to drink the liquor.

It may be recalled that Emmett Hoskins had longed for a visit to shore at night. The time now seemed ideal. The sailor had spent many weeks wondering what Vladivostok would be like after sundown. One night he went AWOL by swimming ashore.

His diary recorded: “I didn’t have any money but just though I would look around. When I made the dock I was so cold I only stayed a short time and only around the water front. Then I swam back again. Sometime later I decided it was time to try it again and to do it properly, so I rolled up my dress blues into a tight roll and made them fast to my head. Then when no one was looking I went over the bow in my underwear and climbed down the ladder to the housepipe then down the anchor chain into the bay. I only got about three points off the bow when the quartermaster on the bridge turned the signal searchlight about the water on a spot where I was. I stopped swimming and lay perfectly still but my dress blues were still sticking out. They trained the searchlight other places and I breathed a sigh of relief when it went off. Then I proceeded to the dock, climbed ashore, changed into my dress blues and was surprised how dry my uniform was. I had rolled it very tight and it was quite clear of the water. Just as I was clearing the dock I ran into a British sailor from the HMS KENT. I told him I was off the BROOKLYN and wanted to look over the town.

” ‘Blimey,’ he said ‘what a man won’t do for a drink’. He smiled and was off.”

Hoskins felt as free as a bird and sang as he made his way uptown. He passed the American Consul’s house and went on over to Kopek Hill.

The town was not much different from what he had seen in daylight except that there were not many uniformed men on the street and the crowd up on Kopek Hill was mostly Russian. Many of them had a haunted look and wore threadbare clothing. He found one Russian who spoke good English and had quite a talk with him before meeting a blonde Russian girl. “She was well built, good natured and good to me. I did not have any money and she gave me anything I wanted. I had my meals with her and the next day I met my shipmates when they came to liberty. They told me I was reported missing and that they had searched everywhere for me. There was nothing to do so I took it easy and had my meals with the Russian girls at the House and had an enjoyable time. Some of them spoke a little English so we chatted and sang and used sign language.

“I reported aboard early in the evening and was promptly turned over to the Master-At-Arms to await Captain’s Mast. Next day at Captain’s Mast I was given a general court-martial and was roped off just outside the brig. In a few days the General Court-Martial was reduced to a Sumary and I was made a prisoner-at-large. When the Summary Court-Martial was held I was sentenced to three months restriction aboard ship and fines of three months pay to be refunded upon receiving an honorable discharge. I was fully restored to duty and was glad because I like the Navy and was never, before or after, on the report or before the Captain’s Mast during my otherwise honorable war service.”

In the BROOKLYN’s kitchen, there were some strange “goings-on.” Ellsworth Cooket told this story: “On the ship thee was a cook 1st class, a regular five by five who always had a big chew of tobacco in his cheek. Come a Saturday morning and into the galley came the Captain. Gansey, the ship’s cook five by five, evidently had not spit for about five minutes. The Captain looked into each of our steam kettles and at the last one, which contained soup, turned to Gansey. ‘I’ll try a bowl of that,’ he said. Gansey, being unable to speak, nodded ‘yes;’ he could not have swallowed or he would have choked to death, and he wondered what he would do if the Captain asked him something that might require an answer. So, as he bent over the kettle to stir the stew, he let go his whole mouthful. The Captain took the bowl, tasted it several times, said it was seasoned just right and complimented the cook. Thereinafter it was known as Gansey’s soup.”

Being built for the tropics, the vegetable lockers on the BROOKLYN were outside, up forward. Later in the year Cooke recalled one particular night when the temperature dropped. It was not his watch for breakfast, as he was second class. But at 3 am the officer of the deck woke him and said the rest of the ship’s cooks had been ashore and were all dead drunk. He enlisted Cooke’s aid. The latter recalled: “I recruited three deck hands for help. I planned on boiled potatoes with skins on. The deck hands brought me three hundred pounds and washed them and then I discovered they were frozen solid and that it would take several hours to thaw them. What to do? I put them in three of the big steam kettles, covered them with boiling water and then I threw in three big ladles of soft soap in each kettle. We made our own soap from lye and grease. In less than thirty minutes they were done and served. I received many compliments from the crew on the well cooked taste. Now constipation had been a problem of the crew. The pills the ship’s doctor doled out did not seem to do much good. Suddenly, wonder of wonders, all this was remedied and no amount of questions by the doctor brought about the answer. The main thing was everybody was happy. Some week later I confessed to the doctor, who was a good scout, and he actually thanked me off the cuff and I think helped me to get my first class rating.”

On July 14th a Japanese destroyer had arrived with Red Cross supplies and on the 16th, according to Miller’s diary, there was an official dispatch from Washington stating that British troops were en route to Vladivostok. On the 24th Miller went with a party aboard the Red Cross boat ORLIK and helped bring twenty-two wounded Czecho-Slovaks to the warehouse.
July was about over, but on the 31st the Japanese battleship IWAMI stood out, homeward bound. The battleship HIZEN stood in and moored to the dock near the SUFFOLK. Admiral Kato transferred his flag to the new arrival.

The men realized that something big was afoot. During July there had been a series of telegrams sent by the BROOKLYN to the Secretary of the Navy in Washington.

On July 1st the Secretary was informed that the Czecho-Slovak National Committee and Commander requested purchasing from the United States the following uniform equipment:

75,000 each of flannel shirts, cloth trousers and blouses, overcoats, ponchos, pairs of shoes, caps or hats, belts and puttees or leggings. It was asked that delivery be made at once to Vladivostok.
On the 2nd the Navy Department received a wire regarding information that pointed to a growing counter-revolution and to a possible overthrow of Bolshevik power. The wire, signed “Robinette,” stated:

“Grand Duke Michael now reported on good authority at head of Siberian government and it will seem that time is about ripe for allied assistance in Siberia.”

On July 3rd the BROOKLYN advised the Secretary of the Navy that the Czecho-Slovaks had taken possession of Vladivostok and displaced the Soviets. The wire read:

“This action is the result of necessity to provide secure base of advance on Irkutsk but precipitated by the action of the Bolsheviks…to send arms and ammunition to Irkutsh for use by war prisoners against the Czechs and by the news of the approach of a considerable force of Red Guards and War Prisoners towards Vladivostok from Nikolsk and Khaborovsk. Soviet abdicated quietly but Red Guards resisted and street fighting has been in progress several hours. After abdication of Soviet the city being without a government and street fighting being in progress have landed a guard of thirty marines for the protection of the Consulate.”

“British and Japanese considerably increased forces on shore. Chinese also landed, population in general rejoicing in overthrow Bolsheviks and welcome Czechs as deliverers in view of attempt of Soviet to send arms and ammunition to Irkutsk, Czechs will utilize arms and ammunition now here as far as available but this not great need…”

“During the fight parties of armed Germans and Austrians fortified themselves in buildings of Red Guard staff and fought more than four hours. Building captured by machine guns and had grenades. Total casualties not known but in capturing this building ten Czechs killed and many more of opponent. Our surgeon caring for wounded. Acknowledge”

There were still six weeks before the first troops of the American Expeditionary Forces would arrive. No declaration had yet been made concerning America’s decision to intervene, but events were pointing toward such a decision.

Meanwhile a detachment of marines had been sent to Russian Island to guard prisoners of war. This lovely little island lay just north of the harbor mouth and was famous for its large radio station although no equipment was in place at the time of the marines’ arrival.
While on the island the BROOKLYN’s ship carpenter, a man named Nearing, “who certainly knew his job but seemed to be disliked by the men,” renumbered all the billets and the hooks where the men hung their hammocks. The marine officer then announced that each man was assigned a place to sleep which was to be his and his alone. Up to that time they had been sleeping on deck. A protest rumbled through the ship and the men were told that no one except the ship’s captain could give permission to sleep elsewhere, but that no one had permission to see the captain!
Feeling mutinous the men realized that when their buddies on Russian Island returned the crowding would be fearful. It was. After a few days a revolt was imminent.
Streed decided to enlist Dr. Dunn’s help. The marine was delegated to answer a sick call in order to tell the doctor of their troubles. Dr. Dunn was a tall, slender man who inspired confidence on sight. Before this capable man had joined the ship, four or five men had died on the BROOKLYN. A marine had been the first to go. The former ship’s doctor had not been able to diagnose the case. He finally had taken the marine to the fleet surgeon, who was aboard as the BROOKLYN was the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet.
The surgeon had taken one look at the man and had him carried ashore bed and all. Rumor had it that the man turned completely black before he died. He was buried in Vladivostok. Other dead were sent home by the first transport. After the marine died the men were told to keep as distant as possible from each other and were given three shots in the shoulder muscle a few days apart. Every morning the heat was shut off the ports were all opened to freeze the germs. “What it did was really freeze us to death,” reported Streed, “but in spite of all this no one ever heard what the dread disease was.”
When Streed visited Dr. Dunn, he found him, as usual, very sympathetic. The doctor agreed to go up and look at the quarters. Upon inspection he felt there was enough room.
Downhearted, Streed persisted, “If you could see the hammocks hanging I am sure you would feel differently.”
“All right,” agreed the doctor, “come and get me when you have the hammocks up.”
That night several of the men rebelled and started to string their hammocks on deck. They were not going to wait any longer. But Streed and others pleaded with them to hold off until after Dr. Dunn rechecked. Grumbling bitterly they finally agreed to hang up the hammocks again and felt better when, for good measure, they also put up the ones belonging to the men on watch. Then Streed went to the wardroom and got the doctor.
Dr. Dunn took one look and said, “No one can be compelled to sleep under these conditions. Sleep wherever you wish.”
The men cheered and sang. A few got out some hidden vodka and drank to their good luck. They wondered if any more would be heard from the Captain. No more was ever heard; Dr. Dunn must have intervened. More than one man has written grateful appreciation of this and other acts of the good Dr. Dunn of the BROOKLYN.
Allen Lange, who had enlisted in the marines in 1908 at the Philadelphia Naval Yard when the White Fleet returned from its world cruise, was one of the men stationed on Russian Island. There he met “a ladylove” associated with the Russian hospital. The Red Cross hospital stood on a hill with the Russian hospital. The Red Cross hospital stood on a hill with the Russian hospital just below, near a forest. The marines were stationed in tents pitched near a school house, and the prison barracks were by the water near the camp along the side of a new building that the POW’s were constructing. The wounded and those suffering from dysentery were brought by tug from Vladivostok. Lange was there directing the prisoners’ stretcher brigade which carried the arrivals up the hill to the hospital.
One day a man collapsed and died while carrying the wounded up the hill. A report was made. After that a Nash truck converted to an ambulance was used to haul the patients.
Days were busy with one thing or another. But at night the island was a romantic place. A girl named Toshia Yealino lived on the island. Lange said she was good to him; he was so lonesome out there so far from home that she was the one thing that made life worth living. He thought she cared. But suddenly he came to an impasse and could make no headway. Their conversation was almost nil because of the language barrier.
Then one day he saw her holding hands with a big whiskered Russian and the marine became furious. He walked away disgusted and swore a little at his two-timing girl friend. But after a while there was a big moon blanching the island and Allen became so desperate in his loneliness he decided to do something about it. He recalled that he watched that “big yellow hunk coming up over the Siberian hill and you know what that can do to a lonely sergeant. Almost anything. So I decided to see my lady love again. But first I needed fortification so I hunted in the bushes for some vodka bottles, as the marines used to hide them there. I took a big swig. Liquor always went to my head but I didn’t care. I strolled off to see Toshia.”
He knocked at the hospital door and Toshia herself greeted him. He took her walking outside, down the road to a big log where they both sat down. All this while the moon was getting bigger and brighter. He wanted her to be kind and loving. He began to tell her Russians were all wolves but she did not understand. So he tried the international language which had seemed to work before for both himself and his buddies. He put his arm around her, squeezed and kissed her.
“Imagine my surprise when she got up and socked me in the eye! That,” said Lange, “was the end of my beautiful romance with Toshia.”
He walked the lonely road. back to camp and then “had a hell of a time trying to explain my black eye to my buddies.”
Later he was to find that Toshia was not angry at his demonstration of love but was expressing her disgust at him. She had been jealous because someone had told her that he was seeing another girl. The “sock in the eye” was her way of expressing jealously.
Evidently the lonely sergeant did not feel too lost about his shattered romance for later he found a second ladylove. He observed: “She was different, though. She was an older nurse and her interest in me was more for my tobacco than for my sex! She used to follow me and beg for my Bull Durham cigarette tobacco. She got tired of smoking those Russian papirosas. They seemed to be made of Gobi Desert camel dung with some tobacco juice mixed in. You could hardly blame her for getting tired of such a concoction.”
One of Lange’s duties was to watch the prisoners who were allowed to go in bathing from their barracks. Lange would tell the sentries where the boundaries for swimming were located; the POW’s were not permitted to swim beyond that point. If the prisoners continued swimming the sentries were ordered to shoot to kill.
All-in-all the POW’s were quite a responsibility. One day nearly all of them had to be suddenly hauled to the hospital.
“We had a big Russian on the Island who brought provisions for the prisoners. He had a long beard and his name was Pop Poof. One day he brought a batch of fish. After the meal the hospital became a busy place. I think the Russian tried to kill the men off with spoiled fish. There was a rumor that Pop Poof had laughed heartily when he heard the men were sick.”
Streed expected to be with the group that went to Russian Island but secured permission to stay in the city because he heard his brother was arriving on am army transport. For nine days thereafter the two brothers were in constant contact and Eugene taught his brother Henry all he knew of Russian. That did not take him very long. When the marine returned to Vladivostok later he found his brother was able to read the newspapers. “I sure was surprised,” he said, “as I never did learn over a dozen words myself.”
According to Lawrence Spuur the men did not have to be on romantic Russian Island to be found in the company of women. “They could eat, but recalled that “it was awkward as we couldn’t sit on a park bench without being surrounded by women. Some were good looking but many were built like lumberjacks because of the hard work they did.
“I think I was too dumb to understand their sign language but I sure saw a lot of those powerful Russian women. Why they could knock hell out of their husbands to kingdom come. In fact I had a buddy who married one and got that kind of treatment.”
Frank Lederer remembered that a post office existed on the BROOKLYN and that they had a marine mail clerk. He thought the mail went through the Vladivostok post office. He recalled buying Russian stamps at the Russian post office in the city. He claimed that he was about the only man that did not succumb to the flu. “We called it the black killer flu and it sure played havoc with the men.”
Today the men still recall details such as the process of obtaining hair cuts. The BROOKLYN barbers consisted of one marine and one sailor who were detailed for this service. They were relieved of other duties except in emergencies, yet they charged for their work. The men were annoyed and began to patronize the Filipino bandsmen who were generally adept at barbering.
During those last summer days before the AEF arrived, the men on the BROOKLYN continued to visit ashore whenever they could. Some men took German prisoners out for a meal and found them most friendly. “They were not in camps at that time,” Lederer said, “and two of them could speak English. Later when the army took over, they were put into POW camps.”
Emmett Hoskins extoled the virtues of Clifford Chipman, the BROOKLYN’s jack-of-the-dust. According to Hoskins he was the best the BROOKLYN ever had. To be a good jack-of-the-dust you had to be good at figures and keeping scores and books.
The chief commissary steward gave Chip a free hand and did most of the clerical work. The chief and the jack-of-the-dust had a little heavy meshwire office just outboard from the ship’s gun deck. Nothing was kept in this office except a desk and other office equipment, no commissary stores. Chip’s job was to issue meat to the ship’s butcher and commissary stores and other items to the ship’s cook.
“I remember Chip so well at Vladivostok,” Hoskins wrote. “There used to be Mongolians who arrived aboard with reindeer. The carcasses were placed and lashed on racks, and straps were placed over the Mongolian’s shoulders so that the racks of the reindeers were on their backs. Those Mongolian packers seemed to have more endurance and strength than Olympic weight lifting champions.”
He recalled watching them arrive from town with the reindeer on their backs. At the docks they would walk along the three barges to the BROOKLYN’s gangway, board the vessel, walk along the main deck down the #2 ladders to the dung-deck starboard side forward to the ship’s jack-of-the-dust office.
“The Mongolians always astonished me with their strength and endurance. They could outpack any American mule,” Hoskins wrote.
In the compartment by the jack-of -the-dust office and the icebox, Mongolians set down their reindeer racks which had a folding leg so that each rack formed a tripod with their legs. A White Russian with a fur cap always accompanied the Mongolian carriers.
“Chip would rig a big scale from an overhead beam and each whole reindeer carcass was weighed and checked by Chip and by the Russian. Then the reindeer was placed in the icebox. This process continued until four to six reindeer had been delivered.” This process continued until four to six reindeer had been delivered.” Thus the BROOKLYN got honest value out of Chip checking and watching the supplies. “The crew and officers liked reindeer meat for a change. It was much like beef, maybe better. It served in the BROOKLYN as a beef substitute such as in roast, stew, etc.”
Not long before the arrival of Allies, Frank Lederer recalled the day that Bolshevik came bounding through the front door of a house on Kopek Hill and lunged at him with a drawn knife. At the same instant a detail of Russian marines with fixed bayonets came through the back door. They saved Lederer’s life and then escorted him back to the ship. He recalled another day, also on Kopek Hill, when an army sergeant pulled out his 45 and was about to shoot a Bolshevik who was going to commit murder with his drawn sword. Lederer said, “There was an awful lot of excitement but for some strange reason no one seemed to have been hurt.”
When the first summer was nearly over, word came that the American Army was on the way. The marines were sent to clean up the barracks. The straw and bedding on the floor was thick and putrid with muck. The filth was appalling. Days were spent cleaning up the foulest of excrement. Upon reaching the fresh air many vomited.

Streed referred to the situation in this manner: “We cleaned and cleaned all day long. But when the soldiers arrived they thought it was still filthy and they started to clean it all over again before they would move in.”

Before the American Army arrived, the marines and sailors of the BROOKLYN gave a lusty cheer of welcome to the PING SUEY which arrived with a group of British soldiers of August 3, 1918. Despite the name, the ship was British.

The men aboard were all Grade B soldiers who had been sick or wounded and who had been rotated from Europe to India.

Shortly after the British landed, the French marched into the Vladivostok on August 9, 1918. On the 11th the Japanese entered the city with flags flying.

None of the excitement at the sight of these troops could match the enthusiasm shown on August 15 and 16, 1918 when the WARREN, MERRITT and CROOK entered Golden Horn Bay with the American Expeditionary Force.

On August 19th the BROOKLYN men lent color and exuberance to the great American parade in Vladivostok.

With the arrival of the American Army, the sailors and marines were able to mingle with their fellow countrymen. They enjoyed the fraternity while it lasted. About the 1st of October, the NEW ORLEANS, a United States Third Class Cruiser, arrived at Vladivostok. Streed said: “It was a steel ship sheathed with wood below the water line. The wood was then covered with copper. The idea was to inhibit marine growth so that the ship wouldn’t be drydocked so often.”
Because of this construction the NEW ORLEANS could not stay in Siberia all winter as freezing would force off the sheathing. The BROOKLYN, the only ship on the Asiatic station capable of standing the intense cold (which later froze off all the paint above the water), left Vladivostok October 9th at 4 pm. It was to be a short exodus from Siberia. It was on December 23, 1918 that the BROOKLYN again anchored in Golden Horn Bay for the winter season.

Part Three

The Russian Railway Service Corps
October 1917 to August 1918

Chapter V

A Dash of Volunteers to St. Paul

The Russian Railway Service Corps was comprised of a group of American railway men who touched Vladivostok harbor as early as December, 1917.

The March revolution had thoroughly disrupted the Transiberian Railway which extended some 4,700 miles from Vladivostok to the Ural Mountains. Alexander Kerensky, head of the provisional government, asked America to help. Uncle Sam responded. Supplies which had been purchased in the United States by the previous Russian government were piling up at Vladivostok. The railways were unable to move these supplies. The railways were unable to move these supplies. The United States certainly did not want them to fall into the hands of the enemy. However, by the time the RRSC men had arrived another revolution was over and Kerensky was no longer in power. As a result the corpsmen had to retrace their steps to Japan and “sweat it out” there for eight long months.

News of both revolutions had rolled like thunder across the world. Diplomats everywhere held conferences wondering what would happen next and how the Russian situation would affect the Allies.

The first American effort to help was through a commission of five railway experts who were sent to Russia by President Woodrow Wilson to inspect the rail conditions and to offer suggestions for establishing efficiency.

Colonel John F. Stevens of New York City headed the mission. He had won a world-wide reputation as organizer of the building staff of the Panama Canal.

When his commission arrived in Vladivostok early in June, 1917, it was provided with a special train through the courtesy of the Russian Railway Administration in order to take the trip across Siberia with as little trouble as possible. At the end of that trip the commission placed its recommendations in the hands of the Russian Minister of Ways and Communications. Then, with the exception of Stevens, all members of the survey party returned to the United States.
The Colonel, who remained behind as a special advisor to the Ministry, was asked to assist in executing measures which the Russian officials agreed were vital. He was given absolute control of the terminal at Vladivostok.

In September the provisional government requested further help. It needed a corps of American railway men to be placed in an advisory capacity along different sections of the Trans-Siberian line. Russia agreed to meet all expenses involved.

In America the plea for men for this mission went into high gear and the Russian Railway Service Corps were born. Subsequently men from various American railways were commissioned by the Secretary of War as officers in the Corps. They were placed under the command of Colonel George H. Emerson.

Stevens wired Daniel K. Willard, Chairman of the Defense Council’s Advisory Commission, that Russia required a military unit of railway men consisting of “…a division of superintendents, dispatchers, trainmasters, travelling engineers, master mechanics and one telephone expert…these men merely to educate Russians in American operations.”

Willard approved Stevens’ request and submitted it to Samuel Felton, Director General of Military Railways. Felton decided to recruit units from some of the most northern states because “it was thought that being accustomed to the cold winters obtaining in the Dakotas and Montana, they would be better able to withstand the rigors of the Russian climate.”

Emerson proceeded to establish the RRSC headquarters in the Northern Pacific Building in St. Paul, Minnesota. Early in October, 1917 he met with top railroad executives from the upper midwest and explained the situation to them. He urged them to “call upon your men to volunteer for service in this corps as a patriotic duty, advising them they will receive commissions in the United States Army.”

Officials of each railroad were to vouch for the character of their companies’ volunteers. Fourteen railroads responded to Emerson’s appeal. Letters were posted on bulletin boards along the lines.

The following is typical of the letters written by the general managers. This letter from R.G. Kenley of the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad Company is dated October 4, 1917:

Mr. R.D. Howie & others
Ft. Dodge, Iowa

Gentlemen:
In conference at St. Paul yesterday Representative railroad men in northwest were advised that Mr. George H. Emerson, General Manager of the Great Northern R.R. had been commissioned to go to Russia to direct and assist in the operation of the Russian Railroads. He will take with him twelve complete division organizations of train dispatchers, trainmasters, travelling engineers, line repairmen, foundry, boiler, machine, engineer erecting, roundhouse foremen, mechanical Supts. and master mechanics. 206 in all are to go Oct. 25, from Pacific Port.
Mr. Emerson will desire to see personally any men endorsed by the officials of this company. Men must be of good physical condition so as to take an active part in operation of Russian Railroads in a cold climate. These men will be enlisted in the United States Army and given commissioned officers rank. The enlistment to be for the duration of the war. They must be men of experience, good character and mature judgment.

We consider this a very fine opportunity for some of out best railroad men to serve our country. Mr. Daniel Willard, President of Baltimore & Ohio R.R. has said that whatever may be done to advance the interests of our allies is going to reduce the number of young men who must go to the firing line. This, therefore, is a Patriotic Call to our men. We hope they will respond in goodly numbers.
R.G. Kenley
General Manager M & St. L. RR.

Patriotism was a fever pitch in those days. It is noted that Colonel Stevens had urged railroad men to volunteer for service as a patriotic duty. For many of them, patriotism was the prime factor that inspired enlistment. Some had tried the army but had been turned down because of age or responsibilities. In the Corps a rate of pay somewhat higher than in the regular army would enable them to support their dependents. Most believed they would have all the benefits of the army. Did not the letter Kenley wrote state: “These men will be enlisted in the United States Army and given Commissioned officers rank?”

Perhaps Kenley and other managers erred in so stating but many believed the words to be gospel. Thus it was that all of the RRSC men held U.S. Army commissions or warrants. The group was organized under a special act to permit higher salaries.

The treatment by our government thenceforth seems to have left much to be desired as far as the RRSC men were concerned. In 1971 less than thirty of the original three hundred men were living. Most had given up hope of any belated recognition for the months they spent in Siberia under what many believed was a hoax.

James Whitehead, who worked for various railroads in the United States and Canada from 1906 to 1956, found himself in Vladivostok in 1917, “More than eager to do his bit for Old Glory.” Fifty years later he was vehement about the treatment of the men. He claimed they volunteered for service at the request of the government, were promised commissions and were given uniforms identical with those of army men.

There is some difference of opinion regarding the so-called “identical uniforms.” General Graves was to write later in a report to Washington that the “similar uniforms” disturbed him. He wrote: “There are besides the Army, the American Red Cross, the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Russian Railway Service Corps wearing substantially the same uniform. In winter uniform it was impossible for me to tell what organization a man in uniform belonged to when I met him on the streets. Practically every foreigner in Vladivostok considers every man in uniform as belonging to the army. This is extremely unfortunate as it results in acts being committed by members of the Allied Agencies with the belief that in case they are caught they can state they are [an] officer in the army. There were cases of this kind in Vladivostok. I believe that where the Agencies are not working with the Army, as in the case in Siberia, they should all have a distinctive uniform entirely different from the army. This would result in every Agency including the Army, standing on its own bottom and its personnel being held morally responsible for acts committed by members of that Agency. I have often seen Russian Railway Service Corps men and Young Men’s Christian Association men wearing a mixed uniform which is not permitted by our regulations, and which in the eyes of the foreign military representatives is discreditable to the army. And I am convinced without any intention discredit has been brought upon the army by the loose method of wearing the uniform.”

Although many of the men thought they were wearing army uniforms, others thought they were slightly different.

Louis A. Rehfuss, of Philadelphia, recalled that men were “given commissions from second lieutenant up. Our commissions were [in] an auxiliary unit of the army engineers and did not extend to conversion in the regular army. The men we were to supervise were supposed to be furnished by the Russians themselves and it was up to us to train them.

“We wore slightly different uniforms from the Army Engineers but with castle emblem on the collar. It was an open neck affair instead of a choke collar used by army officers in those days. Although Colonel Emerson was head of the Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Werst was head of our Locomotive Assembly Unit.”

Rehfuss reported further: “I, with my brother, now deceased, was with the Locomotive Erection Unit of the RRSC which was organized…to help operate the TSRR to get supplies from the Pacific side to help the Russians…as originally composed it consisted of 300 men, all commissioned – 70 locomotive erection men and about 230 operators. Our job with the locomotive erection unit was to assemble 2,000 locomotives that had been shipped knocked down from the United States.”

Apparently the confusion of uniforms was not limited to the men who wore them, for a letter in the National Archives from the Chief Surgeon stated: “The RRSC consists of a body of officers without any enlisted men. They are railway experts and wear uniforms of officers of engineers of the army. They are concerned with the operation of the Trans-Siberian railroad from a technical point. They have obtained authority. See Cablegram in hands of the Adj. General for treatment and medicine same U.S. Army hospitals as army officers.”

Porter E. Turner, who hailed from South Dakota via way stations along both sides of the Canadian frontier, had finally chosen Techachapi Hill, south of Bakersfield, California, as a genuine railroad challenge. “This hill was a most difficult piece of single track.” But when Turner heard the call, he hurried to St. Paul to join the Corps. In retrospect, he does not feel the men were cheated. “There seemed to be a question right at the beginning as to whether we were in the United States army. We did not have standard U.S. army uniforms nor did we have a regular commission. The hearty efforts that members of the RRSC have made to Washington to endeavor to get the Corps recognized as an army unit have failed. Back about fifteen years ago I accompanied the president of the retired RRSC members and returned with the impression that it was a lost cause. So I gave it up.”

But not all the men gave it up. Jim Whitehead felt that the important desire of governmental recognition remained in 1971. He remarked, “A Congressman told me years ago that if there had been two million of us instead of about 300 we would have had a proper discharge in twenty-four hours.”

A former AEFS Captain, later a Commander-in-Chief of the American Legion, was not sympathetic to recognition. He said: “You will find my feeling with reference to the RRSC reflected in my experience with them in taking troops under my command into the interior from Vladivostok. It was the fact that they were contract employees and at least two of them refused to go into a so-called zone of the advance that irrevocably put me in opposition to their recognition as WWI veterans entitled to the rights of men of the fighting services.”

Whitehead offered this in rebuttal: “Like so many other reports about the RRSC I cannot deny or confirm the truth or falsity of the report. I heard of such a thing as a ruckus between one officer and one of the RRSC men. That officer later became national chairman of the American Legion. He testified before Congress that he was in charge of a troop train on the TSRR and that on arrival at a certain terminal the officer who had been piloting the train up to that point refused to go farther saying that that was the end of his district.

“He [the Captain] regarded this as an act of insubordination. However, he did not give the reason for the man making such a reply, which was that pilots were only supposed to pilot trains over territories with which they were acquainted. Another man was supposed to take the train on through. This would be clearly understood by an RRSC man but not understood by the Captain. We are only claiming corrected status for the 288 men who composed the original RRSC Corps. Of this number there were twelve engineers, twelve train masters in the twelve contingents which composed the twelve division operating units. Losses by death and resignations were replaced by men who had been in the army, were discharged in France, and desired further service. Also amongst men who had some railroad experience.”

The late Bradley Taylor reported that the RRSC had been seeking federal recognition for a number of years to make them full members of the army. “There is a long story and lots of records behind this as to whether they took the oath or not. Records show that this group said they did – The State and War Departments said that they did not. So you can take your choice.
“Several years ago we members of the National Legislative Commission of the [American] Legion took a stand against all of these claims such as the Red Cross, etc. who wanted full recognition. We have carried out this stand to the fullest extent but on presentation of evidence that we thought was right we withdrew the name of the Russian Railroad Men with the understanding that we would not oppose any legislation that they got through, but that we would not help them in any manner. This satisfied them.”

Whitehead stated that the United States used the corpsmen as military personnel for several years and then refused to grant insurance or discharges or widow’s pensions.
“The most charitable thing I can say regarding our expedition to Siberia is that it was one of the most classic example of the U.S. Government being too late with too little. Had we been six months earlier the Russian people could have had a democratic government and the world would have been spared the curse of Communism. After the great injustice done our American Indians, broken promises and treaties by the score, by our great and powerful country, the injustice done to 300 railroad men all of who will soon be silenced forever will mean very little.”

A number of the AEFS men expressed a difference of opinion regarding the RRSC. A report of L.D. Yates of the AEFS, a most observant chronicler, stated that Colonel Emerson administered the railroad group and made the assignments and kept the records. “The RRSC had none of the usual army groupings or assignments but functioned as individuals or small groups according to needs as they arose. They were uniformed and all held commissions. They did not drill and did not stand formation. They were quartered together and when not on assignments pretty much went their own way.”

Francis Sigel, an Easterner who had been in service on the Mexican border in 1916, was with AEFS Headquarters. He recorded: “Those RRSC men controlled the Trans-Siberian schedules. They did not get the proper recognition that thought they would get. They did a good job but were treated like civilians. They got no bonus and although they were not under the military they dressed like us.”

Tom English, another AEFS man, reported: “The RRSC were commissioned in the U.S. Army Engineer Corps but when their job was over they were sent home and have never been given recognition as being in the military service, yet they wore army uniforms.”

Rodney Sprigg, who was with the International Military Police in Vladivostok from the autumn of 1918, felt that the RRSC did “a wonderful job”. He thought they were badly treated by the United States government.

Yates said the corpsmen did not receive the same recognition as trainees in the States, “yet they certainly did their job and sometimes under very trying circumstances and they were prepared to do more.”

Dave Magowan, an AEFS man, stated: “They were put in U.S. uniforms and then found out, when they were over there, that they weren’t actually in the U.S. Army.” Roy Coalson considered them a “very competent group;” Riley Allen, “a fine outfit;” and Harry Rohrer, “very efficient.”

LIllian Stark, a nurse who served in Siberia, said that they were commissioned “just like army officers and when they were sick we had them in our Evacuation Hospital #17 as patients.”
Whitehead reported: “We applied for war risk insurance on regular forms. Some men got their policies and others, including myself, heard nothing for fourteen long months. Then I got a short note saying that because we were not in military service, insurance could not be granted. About this time those that had received policies were given notice to return them for cancellation.”
Whitehead felt that in view of the legal means they used and the requests they made to have the matter of their service corrected, the government should have recognized them.

“The War Department has always been able to block us. Frankly I lost a great deal of respect for our government but I found out this is not the first time they have broken faith with those whose only thought was to give the best service they could. All we ever got was ‘your resignation in the RRSC Corps had been accepted.’ This was signed by the ‘Adj. Gen. of War Dept.’ ”

The disillusionment voiced by most of the men at the lack of recognition received seems to be grounded in a deep-seated resentment against a government that had apparently offered them military status, only to break faith with them. Men who believed that they had served their country as soldiers in time of war found that they had been hired only as civilians.

Nevertheless, when the men first heard the call to Siberia they had no inkling of a possible disillusionment later. Porter Turner remembered: “We had a patriotic urge and enthusiasm when we started and were told we were to go to Siberia and fan out over the Siberian railroad between Vladivostok and the Ural Mountains. It sounded great.

“Our mission was said to be necessary to get the Czech trains to Vladivostok so the men could be moved by boat to the Western Front and France. Also they could be handled by boats to Western Canada and to the United States and across the countries for movement to Europe and the Western Front.

“We were to have 300 railroad operating officials and were to be known as the Russian Railway Service Corps. The men were to be formed into Divisions and groups. There was to be one telephone and telegraph group and 80 Baldwin Locomotive men from the Baldwin Locomotive works who were to assemble engines.”

Jim Whitehead said that the rest of the men were to be operating railroaders from about fifteen midwestern railroads. “Colonel Jasperson had charge of the Baldwin group and moved on a special train which consolidated with our two special trains at Omaha.”

Claire Rice stated that there were thirty-eight Russian interpreters recruited to teach the men Russian. They were gathered at San Francisco to sail on the USAT THOMAS with the RRSC men.

Rice, who had been born in Iowa in 1885, had moved to Nebraska in 1892 where his father was agent from the Union Pacific Railroad. The son went to work for the Union Pacific in 1899 at the age of thirteen. Later he worked for Wells Fargo & Company at the time of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. Upon arrival in Vladivostok in December, 1917, he helped unload telephone equipment for the train dispatching job and then sailed with the others to Japan on December 17th.

When Colonel Emerson had announced in St. Paul, Minnesota that he would personally interview men interested in the project, volunteers had raced to St. Paul. To all of them it seemed to be a most wonderful mission.

Upon passing an intensive physical and mental examination, as well as a test to determine his railway experience, the enlistee became eligible to apply to the War Department for a commission.

Porter E. Turner, a prolific writer of letters, notes and diaries, has made it possible to include many minute details in this story of the RRSC. One of his first letters home regarding the Corps was written at Bakersfield, California, while he was employed as a train dispatcher for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. With much enthusiasm he wrote that he was returning to St. Paul “as fast as possible.” If the officials would give him a couple of days he would be able to make the journey to his parents home in nearby Reynolds, North Dakota.

Turner previously had tried to enlist in the army in 1917, once while working in Pocatello, Idaho and again in Boise. He was not accepted because he was married. Now he jumped at the chance “to do his bit for Uncle Sam.” He was advised that he would receive the same salary as he was then receiving, $166.00 a month. This would make it possible for him, as a married man, to contribute something worthwhile to the war effort and still support his wife.

In a letter home dated October 20, 1917 he wrote proudly: “I have enlisted in a Railway Corps that is being organized in St. Paul that goes to Russia as soon as possible. We expect to sail from some West Coast port November 5…I get a Second Lieutenant [Commission] with a salary of two thousand a year and all expenses from time I leave.”

Most volunteers, who were older than the average doughboy, put their personal affairs in order and gathered at St. Paul for the preliminary training session.

Some fifty officers exuberantly drilled inside the St. Paul Depot while the walls echoed with shouted commands. Despite the fervor of patriotism and the excitement, apprehension marked many faces as the families of the RRSC men watched husbands and fathers board the 7:15 pm train on November 11, 1917. Peter Copeland of Omaha was forty-nine years old at the time and recalled that his wife stood the parting “like a major.”

A series of cards and letters relate Turner’s experiences on his trip from St. Paul to San Francisco. On November 1st he wrote from St. Paul mentioning three-hour drills and three-hour sessions in the Russian language each day.

“Our outfit sure is going to be nice. The overcoats are the finest sheepskin inside and very pretty…with fine fur collar. Best coat in country. Understand our uniforms cost $45.00 each and are sure a nice garment. Will take my second inoculation for typhoid tomorrow pm and figure being sick tomorrow night as most of them are after the second dose.”

In his next letter, dated November 6th, he told his parents to address him: “Care Russian Railway Service Corps, Care Mr. Jasperson, Locomotive Shops, Vladivostok, Russia, Asia.”

On November 11, 1917, just one year before Armistice Day, Turner recorded leaving St. Paul about 7:30 pm: “We have a private train, standard sleepers, two baggage cars, two diners and Mr. Emerson’s private car…Cannot say when we will leave Frisco but will drop you a line when I can.
“We will not be permitted to wire you on our arrival in Vladivostok, but the government has arranged to wire arrival of the entire corps to an army officer here in St. Paul and he will drop you a card on our arrival.”

Apparently an army officer was designated to mail the cards to the families of the men, although the army later disavowed any connection with the RRSC. The card regarding Turner’s arrival was taken by hand by the local postmaster to his parent’s home so that they would receive the news as soon as possible.

From Evanston, Wyoming on the 13th of November, Turner wrote: “Do not know when we will leave San Francisco, but will probably be there four days or more. Everybody is still happy and do not think there is a man in the entire crowd that would stay home if he had the chance. There is a trainload of Baldwin Locomotive experts about four hours ahead of us who go to Russia on the same boat we do.”

Peter Copeland recorded that the Corps arrived November 14, 1917 and were joined by seventy-five machinists from the Baldwin Works at Philadelphia. He said members underwent indoctrination sessions at the civic auditorium, received inoculations and had their passports validated at the Russian Consulate.

Turner’s letter from San Francisco on November 16th to his parents, stated that the men “expected to leave on Sunday.” He went on: “Our baggage leaves our hotel at 8 am on Saturday and [I] suppose we will get on board about noon Sunday. We go on a regular ocean liner and will be two men in each stateroom. I do not know who I will be with but so far have been with a man I know. Mr. Twaddle from Sparks is rooming with me here and we have asked them to put us in the same stateroom on the boat. We have our passports and are all fixed. I am sure glad I am going and can hardly wait until we leave.”

He closed the letter with these words so typical of the feeling of the men of that day: “Do not worry for me as I am all right and would not be out of the fight for anything.”

“We all hope to return safely and I do not think of anything else, but in case I should not, I well no repent the more as I feel it is my duty. With all my love I will say ‘Good Bye’ from American soil – at least for the present.”

And so a group of American railroad men were prepared to embark on a transport which would take them 3,000 miles from home. All were eager and happy to be a part of the great effort to make the world safe for democracy.

Chapter VI

The RRSC En Route to Vladivostok

On November 18, 1917 the RRSC men made their way to the San Francisco docks. They had lunch on board the THOMAS and were then given leave from 2 to 6 pm. Returning to the transport, they had supper and most went to bed early. After a 7 am breakfast on the 19th they lined the rails until the THOMAS left dock at 9:30 am.

The outward passage through the Golden Gate was a profound experience. Left behind were families, hearths and homes. Ahead lay the sinister continent of Asia.

Being borne on the rolling high seas did not fail to impress men who were accustomed to a course usually guided by graded and banked steel rails.

The THOMAS, according to reports, was 470 feet long. It had been built in 1893 and rebuilt in 1914. Turner reported: “There are eight decks and the boat will accommodate 2200 men. It has a crew of 250 and the boat averages 13 knots an hour. It has a crew of 250 and the boat averages 13 knots an hour. It didn’t take long for me to find out that I liked to ride on the very head-end.”

W.A. Kelly later wrote about his memories of the trip. Addressing his buddies, he reminisced: “One must think first of the transport docks in Fort Mason compound, near the foot of Van Ness Avenue. Many of us there had our first contact with Uncle Sam’s military. Can you see again the high grey sides of the transport moored at the pier? Remember the bustle of last minute loading of commissary supplies, the occasional sentry who gave us curious glances, the RRSC men who had already arrived hanging over the rail watching us below toting our coats and baggage? We were bewildered, wondering just what the insides of that ship held for us. Remember the wives of some of the men who came to the docks to bid their husbands good-bye?

“Remember how that touch made you think of the folks you left at home? And how you put out your chin and marched forward to the duty that lay ahead?

“Remember your satisfaction if you drew a cabin berth or your reaction at an assignment to the Bull Pen space? Recall how you looked around, found your niche, spread out your things, inspected your cabin-mates, wondered about them, decided ‘Oh well, I can take care of myself and take what’s coming. It’s war time now and I can rough it as well as these other guys.’ ”
Seasickness became quite a topic of conversation. Ex-navyman Chris Anders related superciliously what happened to landlubbers on their first voyage. As the men listened, each had a secret fear that he would make a fool of himself and be the first to race to the rail. But Chris himself, “the old salt of large experience beat us all to it. He got pale and wobbly before we were well through the Gate and was one of the first to give up the ghost.”

The first night the men were delighted to discover that the wireless operator was a wonderful piano player; he played for them until lights out. From then on it was routine; deck drills and lessons in the Russian language were the main tasks. Piano playing boxing, writing home, gambling, debating, wrestling, concerts, parties and Sunday morning religious services were enjoyed by the men in leisure time.

The men remembered Pluto Hutchins going from cabin to cabin with a bottle of health water, “searching for a can opener to pry off the cap and set him right with his tummy again.” They also remembered “Bathroom George” who lightened their hearts. This steward took unusual pride in keeping his bathroom “sparkling clean.” Other men travelling on the THOMAS nearly a year later also wrote of “Bathroom George” in their letters. Kelly saw him five years later, still smiling, still on the THOMAS, and still eager to talk about the voyage of the RRSC men. He was full of recollections and had a remarkable memory for names and incidents.

For several days the serenity of the ocean calmed the spirits of those who had fear in their hearts. One day they watched a flying fish and schools of dolphins playing. Earlier they had met an eastbound steamer about six miles off the port side. The weather was a delightful 72 degrees. The joy was suddenly dispelled at 7:20 pm when it was announced that all lights were to be put out and remain out; a raider was reported behind them. The steamer they had seen that morning had met the raider.

The THOMAS increased its speed to the limit, and the men were shocked into the realization that this was their first war scare. Many were so frightened they slept all night in their life belts; some did not sleep at all. Others scoffed at the thought of a mysterious German sea enemy on their trail.

Soon the THOMAS learned that the light cruiser CINCINNATI was leaving Honolulu to convoy her. Many breathed easier at this news. There were no further reports of the raider but the “lights out” prevailed.

As the THOMAS approached Honolulu, the anxieties, the thoughts of home, and fears of what might lie ahead dissipated themselves.

Arising at 5:30 am on November 26, 1917, many had their first sight of the islands. Turner wrote in his diary: “Arrived at dock, Honolulu 8:10 am off boat at 8:45 am.”

The three-day vacation on what many called “Paradise Island” seemed all too short to the men. The scenery was inspiring; the temperature never went below 40 degrees or above 85 degrees. Trees and flowers never seen before were in abundance, and the men were ecstatic at being able to visit pineapple and coconut groves and sugar cane plantations.

The city, which many men found disappointing, had an estimated population of only 60,000 although it extended along the waterfront for several miles. Most of the business places were owned by the Japanese and the Hawaiians. These shopkeepers usually lived over their stores or in small apartments in the rear. These buildings were simple. A few pretentious buildings were noted in the residential areas, but extravagant structures were in the minority. Almost every foot of the island space was utilized. The corpsmen were pleased to find that some Americans were in business and that two American newspapers flourished in Honolulu.

It was noted at once that the inhabitants consisted of several nationalities; Hawaiians, Americans, Chinese, and Japanese predominated.

Lolling on the beach at Waikiki the first afternoon, the men reflected on the strange war that had engaged them. They wondered at the fairness of enjoying sunshine and rest while their brothers in France were under fire. They went back day after day to the beach. Some of them enjoyed the hula dancers performing their “swing and sway” on the beach. A week later George Hayden gave a good imitation of the hula dance, replete with grass skirt, for the benefit of the men aboard the THOMAS.

On November 26th some of the men were invited to a building which had just opened as a “Y”; it was formerly one of the finest hotels in the city. There was a show and social hour, and the men enjoyed a talk by a Dr. Smith from New York. They stayed until 10:30 pm. On returning to the ship they were detained at deck side for nearly an hour by some Hawaiians who were playing guitars and ukuleles. The sweet music impressed them and “there was not a single false note.”
Parties took place at the Elks Club. It was said that the echo was heard back in Washington, and a Senate investigation was believed to have resulted! Regulations prohibited serving drinks to the men and officers of the United States Army while in uniform. The Elks escaped prosecution by proving that the RRSC men did not belong to the army. This proof must have mitigated against those who later sought recognition in Washington.

Passes were given out by the officials of the island railroad line; some of the men took rail trips around the island. Others enjoyed inspecting the local trains. Turner wrote home: “We were up to see the Dispatchers of the Oahu Railroad, which is the only road on the Island. It is a narrow gauge road and they handle their trains about the same as we do in the United States. The engines and cars are much smaller. The Superintendent was formerly from the Northern Pacific at Fargo, N. Dak.”

All was not entertainment, sightseeing and fun. One day a vicious brawl took place between two seamen of the THOMAS. Some may have called it entertainment, but most recoiled. Kelly reported it as follows: “One [was] a big broad Scandinavian, the other was a smaller younger husky sailing his first transport cruise. The smaller man challenged the Norseman’s rule…the battle followed. It was one of those primitive things that Conrad and London wrote about, when heavy shod boots crushed helpless faces and the strongest, cruelest man won. The young fellow was a beaten thing in the end. He was glad to quit ship at the island port. It was for the best, he said, but fire and battle still shown from his eye. He would have stayed and fought again but was smart enough to know it was useless. I sympathized with this fellow then and wondered about the bigger man who had beaten him so.”

The interpreters presented difficulties. They had accompanied the men from San Francisco in order to instruct them in Russian while on board. Just before reaching Honolulu they protested teaching, translating, or doing anything except interpreting.

Colonel Emerson demanded a showdown in Honolulu. He interviewed the interpreters in a private room and gave each an individual third degree. As a result eight interpreters were left in Honolulu. The RRSC men heartily approved as they had distrusted them. However, this action created a shortage which had to be met later by replacements.

The war news also worried the men. They heard all kinds of rumors but nothing factual. Turner wrote his parents on November 2, 1917: “If the Russians sign up for peace it will change our plans considerable. We are all in hopes we go as planned. In case we do no go to Russia sure hope we can go to France. I have heard nothing about it either way, but suppose you were wondering about us every day. We are headed for Russia now and I know we will soon leave here for there and in case they do sign up for peace with Germany we would probably be stopped at Japan until a definite understanding is reached. Do not know for sure, but we all understand we go direct to Vladivostok from here which will be about a 20 day voyage if the weather is good and we are sure to run into some storms, but our ship is a good one and can stand anything…It will probably be sometime before I get my mail, as mail ships are not very thick on the Pacific now. Most of them are in government service on the Atlantic. Several of the largest passenger liners are being remodeled into transports to carry troops. When we leave here it will be my last chance to mail anything for at least 20 days so your next word from me will not be before about 1st of February.”

On the 27th there were indications that the men might be leaving. Turner wrote his parents that he thought they would remain in Hawaii until after Thanksgiving. On the 29th he sent a card indicating departure in a few hours. The THOMAS left dock at 1:55 pm, November 29, 1917, heading west and a little north.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1917 the RRSC was en route to its destination. Although the corpsmen could not complain about the meal served aboard the THOMAS that day, many dreamed of home and dear ones sitting around a groaning great-table with the turkey ready to be carved. Nevertheless, the diaries referred to the fine meal consumed: oyster soup, turkey with all the trimmings, ice cream and “almost everything imaginable to make us miss home a little less.” After- dinner hikes around the deck were in order. Singing in the social room followed. Many wrote home on this day so deeply associated with American family life.

The peace of Thanksgiving with its good meal, its songs and its prayers was dispelled suddenly by a threat of mutiny. Some men refused to be quartered near the interpreters, and a protest meeting was called on one of the lower decks where many grievances were aired. Those quartered farthest forward protested the loudest. After discussions were concluded, the threat of mutiny disappeared.

The news dispatches did not alleviate the general confusion. Vladivostok was still a considerable distance away. The wireless reported the possibility of Russia’s withdrawal from the war. Some details were given of the October Revolution, and a new government was said to have replaced the Kerensky regime. The actual date of the revolution was November 7, 1917, but it is referred to as the October Revolution in accordance with the old Russian calendar.

Born after the March Revolution on March 12, 1917, the Kerensky, or Democratic, Government was overthrown a scant eight months later by Nilolai Lenin’s seizure of power with the communists on November 7th. Lenin was supported by such Bolsheviks as Josef Stalin, Leon Trotsky and V.M. Molotov in founding the Soviet Union. Kerensky went into exile.

When the corpsmen heard this news on the wireless, they began to wonder and debate about the future. The Kerensky Government had hired them, and that government no longer existed. Each day the men received inadequate snatches of news.

From Honolulu they had taken a westerly course and had continued in the direction to 600 miles east of Japan. The climate had remained warm until they headed more northerly. By November 11th it had become too cold to go outside. Until then many had taken walks around the promenade deck, “14 times makes a mile.” On several days they would do two miles or more. Leaving balmy air and the smooth waters of the tropics, the THOMAS’ heating system hissed and banged as it became overtaxed in an attempt to keep the transport warm.

The crew began to wear heavier clothes; many resembled characters of earlier campaigns. “Imagine strolling on deck to find men with army coats that were used in the Spanish-American War and in the Civil War! But that is just what happened.”

Some of the men were startled at first as they watched others in blue capes, looking for all the world as though they were searching for General Grant. Still others were in buffalo skin robes, relics of Alaskan expeditions!

Evening socials now included boxing matches. Further studies of the Russian language, military procedure, and rules of conduct of officers in a foreign country were also persued. As always, there were games of chance, songs, and piano playing. For some there were dreams they did not wish to share.

After reaching Japan, the transport followed the east coast of Honshu for about three hours before it arrived at the Tsugaru Stait. Then the transport turned due west. On the 12th the men saw the city of Hadodate through the windswept northwest. A volcano was smoking, and the towns looked like little paper villages that might go up in the smoke. The sampans and junks, accustomed to such wind, were moving along the rocky coast which formed a backdrop for a school of whales playing in the wide waters. As they passed through the Strait, the men could see land on both sides – pretty land with picturesque houses.

They were far from the tropics now, and the weather made a change of clothes mandatory. Not only were the old greatcoats used, but heavier underwear and socks were donned. The land they saw on December 12th was snow-covered. From tropics to thunder and lightening on the 10th, high winds on the 11th and cold and snow on the 12th! The men began to feel like puppets manipulated by the strings of an omnipotent weatherman.

Vladivostok now lay across the Sea of Japan. The Americans were eager to land, but monetary limitations gave them concern. The red dog game had taken its toll.

It was 11 am on December 14, 1917 when the THOMAS reached Vladivostok. No shore leave was granted “because of conditions.” With heads full of stories of such conditions in Vladivostok, the men wondered about the morrow.

Emerson and the ship’s captain went ashore almost at once to confer with Stevens and the Vladivostok officials. Without doubt there would be a conference at the Consul’s home. The result of that conference would determine whether the men would be able to go ashore.
Meanwhile, some Baldwin locomotive men who were in Vladivostok boarded the THOMAS. Russian quarantine officers also went on board to inspect the corpsmen’s passports. The general disheartening conditions were discussed. The men learned that they were not wanted in Russia. As far back as November 17th Ambassador Francis had advised Washington that the provisional government would probably be deposed; yet he advised that the Emerson force should continue its plans. Sevens, however, had advised Secretary Lansing that deep confusion existed in Vladivostok and that civil war there made useless any further idea of helping the railway. Stevens’ own authority had also been derailed.

According to Grenier’s article based on Peter Copeland’s papers, by the time the RRSC arrived Colonel Stevens “was relegated to a railway car.” Stevens had become ill with worry over how the RRSC men would be fed and housed.

Yet Turner, writing home after he had visited the city, said: “Mr. Stevens, who came to Russia with the Root Party, met us in Vladivostok. He claims conditions are very favorable for us and that only once was he insulted and that was by a Russian who had just returned to Russia since the Revolution. If you have heard any rumors of riot in Vladivostok it is all wrong as it appears to be as quiet a town as we were ever in. They claim in Vladivostok a separate peace is not wanted but they ask for an armistice for six months so they can prepare for war. Their armies are out of clothing and munitions. They ignored Germany’s peace terms.”

The RRSC men were told that their arrival frightened the Soviet officials who feared their new-found authority would be in jeopardy. They believed an outside armed force would threaten their safety.

In fact, tension was at such a high pitch that the workers threatened a nationwide strike if the Americans landed. Serious action might be the ultimate result if the Americans adopted any high-handed attitudes. At this time the bay was about to freeze over, and there was a possibility that the transport would be iced in for the winter.

“Well, it looks as though we are going to have to spend more time on this old tub.” one man said. Later another reported: “We were thoroughly disgusted as the trip had been long and tiresome. A little time on land might have eased the boredom.”

Whether this type of talk reached the higher echelon is not known, but at 9 am on December 17th Major C. Treat Spear assembled the men. He lectured them on good judgment and told them not to cause any trouble, not to drink and not to resent insults. If they bore that in mind and wanted to go ashore, they were permitted to do so.

Some men jumped at the chance; others could not afford to make the trip; still others stayed on board through fear. Younger men might not have worried so much about dangers. Some of the men decided to wait “until they could get a report from their buddies” who would see the town that afternoon.
At 1:15 pm a few men left the transport for town. Thereafter all leaves were forbidden.
The Russians, they found, were totally unprepared to receive any corpsmen. As it was only a few weeks after the overthrow of the provisional government, Whitehead and some of the others were puzzled why some provision had not been made for their reception prior to the overthrow. Still others found that they were not wanted or even welcome.

Peter Copeland wrote that day: “After lunch I went ashore with Spear and [F.E.] Fuhrman and others.

“We walked around the main street, up one side, down the other…[at the Post Office] I got a 25-ruble bill changed and bought five post cards and mailed them. It cost me 40 kopecks. We then walked to the railway station; it was a dirty place. We met several fellows that could talk English. The town is built on the side of a hill and stores do not have show windows but small windows.
“We came back at 4 pm. Then we learned we would have no more shore leave. All kinds of stories started around ship about what happened over town, and especially from them that were looking out to get acquainted with the ladies. Some went over early and had dinner and lunch over there and said they had beefsteak, wine and beer for three to five rubles. One fellow got 80 rubles for $5 gold piece. All of the Russian money is paper. We rode over with a Chinaman in his Sampan boat…and came back in one. We had a hard time getting through the slush ice around our boat. We paid him three rubles for two [passengers] and 10 cents for the other. A ruble here is worth about six to eight cents. Their money had badly depreciated in value.

The Russians are all soldiers or students, and nobody does any manual labor except the Chinks and Japs. The Japs will ride you on their back for blocks for 50 kopecks, which is equivalent to three cents. The street cars are small and do not have a trolly as in America. The conductor and motormen are all girls dressed like boys. I did not see any cash registers; all the money is put in a black tin box. I guess an account of it all being paper. The banks had all suspended business, and an iron gate was in front of the door. It was Saturday afternoon, and this is supposed to be a holiday, but we heard the banks had suspended business or the agents of the Bolshevik soldiers [had closed them]. There is really no government at all; the only guards we saw were around the Railway yards. I saw one auto which looked like a Buick, but no flivvers.

Their modes of conveyance are crude and about 200 years behind the times. Their drays are very short wagons with small horses, but they look fat. I saw two nice rigs. One fellow dressed in a long robe of fine cloth down to his shoetops, a black fur cap, a mustashe [sic], and fat, and was driving a cutter with black horse. He had a blue net over the horse from the collar clear back to the cutters; I understand it was to keep the balls of snow from the feet of the horse being thrown in face. The buildings are all covered with Russian signs. We saw some English signs, two barber shops and one money exchanger. There don’t seem to be many hotels, and all the buildings are dilapidated. There doesn’t seem to be any prosperity at all among them and but few new buildings were being erected and they were for storage purposes. The ship docks are all filled with piles of pig iron, spools of wire rope…and in fact commodities of all description, even to autos awaiting transportation. We understand they move two good trains a day, one passenger train a week from Petrograd and two express mail trains a week. There are three local trains out a day – – one 9 am, 2 pm and 4 pm. The harbor is fine and a great chance for a great city. The ice is forming around the ship and government ice breaker. Mail came by government tug about 6 pm.”

Perhaps Copeland’s account is the most detailed concerning the short leave in Vladivostok. Turner, however, told one story of one little boy who took them all over town and showed them things they would never have seen otherwise. The little guide spoke English, which he was studying at school. The men were quite taken with him.

Several of the Americans making their way to the post office were less fortunate than Copeland had been, for they had none of the required Russian money to purchase cards and stamps.
One of the ironic twists of the Siberian fiasco was that these men, so eager to participate in the war effort and anxious to help educate Russian railway men to understand modern methods of transportation, were not only pointed at in the streets of Vladivostok, but were mad to feel that they were not welcome. In fact they were threatened.

While the corpsmen enjoyed the sights, Stevens and Emerson decided that lack of food, political chaos, and uncertain control of the railways, along with the menacing ice in the harbor, were enough to justify leaving immediately for Japan. The order was issued.

On the 17th Stevens wired Washington: “Impossibility of proceeding with work at the present moment. Danger of harbor freezing makes prompt action imperative. Icebreakers in hands of insurgents. Please arrange quickly for Emerson to have ample credit…I cannot supply him and shore quarters and food in Japan require cash.”

The action was approved. Stevens was told that there seemed good reason to believe the situation would improve to such an extent that he would be able to render service. The Russian provisional government’s ambassador in Washington agreed to pay the expense of the Corp’s stay in Japan. Stevens had explained the necessity for the Corps to wait in Japan for someone had erred seriously; no rations were on board.

Writing in his diary on Sunday, December 16th, Porter Turner remarked that shore leave had been cancelled and that they were preparing to leave. It was a dull Sunday, and the men watched Emerson and Stevens and other officers striding up and down the decks obviously apprehensive about the ice formation.

One of the men said a Russian government boat took some of the corpsmen around the harbor on brief trips after lunch. The Secretary of the YMCA came aboard with two women to conduct religious services. Hymns were sung the rest of the afternoon.

All negotiations to allow the men to prepare for their original mission failed miserably. After three days in Vladivostok, the THOMAS turned about on December 17, 1917; a cable from Washington ordered the Corps to Nagasaki to await further orders. The Russians were ordered to bring out an icebreaker so the THOMAS could break away into the open sea.

The men were doomed to wait it out another month on the transport before suitable quarters could be found for them to land. It was a sad Christmas aboard the THOMAS that year. Many months more were to pass before some of them were finally to return to Vladivostok.

Chapter VII
At Nagasaki December 1917 to May 1918

“How are we going to play a part in Russian affairs if we wait in Japan?” the men asked. No one had the answer.
It was 4 pm when they left Golden Horn Bay. The rapidity with which they were in and out of Vladivostok is recorded on a card Turner sent from Nagasaki on December 20th: “Arrived in Vladivostok December 14 [1917]; left on the 17th and arrived in Japan on the 19th.”
Some of the men thought they were going back only for coal and supplies sand would return within ten days. Those ten days stretched to eight months, eight long months during which more than one man became discouraged with his prolonged “vacation.”
Many enjoyed the sights and the relaxation, but they began to feel that some hard work would be a good change.
The two-day trip to Nagasaki was not easy. Seas were rough. Seasickness, which many had believed to be a thing of the past, was hard upon them again. A routine of sorts set in as the men studied Russian, performed physical drills, read and played cards.
It was 6:30 pm, December 19th, when they reached Japan. No shore leave was permitted until the following day.
On board, Colonel Emerson had explained that no function would be fulfilled by staying in Japan; yet it was necessary to remain there until a stable authority in Siberia reinvited the corps.
The overthrow of the Kerensky Government certainly had upset plans of the RRSC men. Apparently the Bolsheviks were completely indifferent to the plight of the railroad. Ruthless vandalism had caused great damage to “appurtenances and equipment”. Cars had been stripped of fixtures, including the removal of plush seat covers.
It was this utter disregard for materials, coupled with Bolshevik hostility toward the RRSC, that had hastened the latter’s departure for Japan.
Therefore, the railroaders were destined to spend the holidays, aboard the THOMAS anchored in a Japanese harbor. There were no packages or mail for them. The prospect had seemed dull; reality was worse.
Most of the Americans had but little money to spend in the shops in town. Nevertheless, “just to get off the old tub” seemed desirable. The men went ashore, and the penniless simply walked up one street and down another. Their government, as yet, had not issued any pay.
Those who had fifty cents were able to travel by jinrikisha up the small alley-like streets. They could not seem to get enough of the sights of the strange city. There were no automobiles, and the streets were only about eight fee wide. A few street car lines traversed the waterfront.
Some found the city clean and well-lighted. Others said it was filthy, with wide open sewers. The absence of sidewalks converted the streets into rivers of mud when it rained. A population of 188,000 occupied an area that would accommodate about 40,000 in an American city.
The men noted the clever use of dry masonry. The Japanese were experts in that art. “Their dry masonry looks as good as any in the States where they use mortar.” Noted, too, was the exquisite carpentry in which the Japanese “used no nails, but dovetailed everything.” The corpsmen visited Suwa Temple, the museums, the railroad station and the “strange stores”. They absorbed all they could.
The surrounding hills of Nagasaki were most economically cultivated by clever terracing. This type of farming startled the men who came from a land of sweeping plains and vast board valleys.
The Japanese scenes resembled illustrations in gaudy-colored travel books and magazines back home.
Copeland was amused by the difficulties encountered in navigating the narrow streets because of the widespread use of bulls and beasts of burden. “When a family stopped to shop, its bull was tethered to the side of a store but usually stood across the street blocking the passage.”
He reported amazement at the beauty of “the strange trained twisted plants and trees. The camellias with variegated red and white blooms, the purple magnolias, the red leaf maples and the camphor trees.”
The typical Japanese home impressed many of the visitors, one of whom called it “a mere shell of two rooms.” In this day when the Western World is aware of Japanese customs, it seems strange to find many letters and diaries expressing surprise that the Japanese removed footwear in one room before entering the other rooms. The ever-familiar rattan rugs and the absence of chairs fascinated the men. Those who were fortunate enough to visit a wealthy home saw sliding screen doors, panel work and glass and lovely Cantonese gardens. These gardens were usually entered from the side of the house and were walled from public view.
On December 22, 1917, shore leave was cancelled in the morning. A written pass from the major was required to leave the transport after dinner.
On the 20th Stevens had wired Willard: “I ought to know shortly if we can go ahead…we should all go back shortly with man-of-war and 5,000 troops. Time is coming to put the fear of God in these people.” Considering that American ideals centered on non-interference in Russian affairs, this statement, although made prior to AEFS intervention, seems in retrospect to have been a strong one. Willard informed Lansing that he estimated thirty-nine days might be necessary to reach a decision as to deployment of the Corps.
When the RRSC men saw the coaling of the ship on the 20th, they hoped that it meant a prompt return to Vladivostok. But there was a long wait ahead.
Christmas was a sad day for many who had dreamed of home, but the Corps was served a bounteous Christmas Dinner. Three gracious women went aboard at 5:30 pm and played the piano until 8:30 pm. Turner wrote: “Went to Christmas exercises at 3 pm at Missionary Quarters and returned at 5:30 pm. Japanese girls sang in English and several other English people entertained us.” It snowed on Christmas, and this reminded the men from the Midwest of home.
On the 26th, while it was still snowing, some of the Americans visited a Canadian Pacific passenger liner, the EMPRESS OF RUSSIA. This vessel was to transport Canadian troops to Siberia in the months ahead.
The following Sunday a Reverend D.C. Spencer “gave a fine speech at Missionary Hall on the cause of war.”
New Year’s Eve would be completely devoid of any excitement for the RRSC men who by then had learned that lack of funds would keep them on the boat. “As soon as funds arrive we will take up quarters in Nagasaki,” they were later told, dispelling any hope of an immediate return to Siberia.
Grumbling was heard up and down the ship; the lack of mail from home or any contact with loved ones, intensified the homesickness. One day W.W. Kelly received a letter from his wife. There was pandemonium as the men begged for news from the home front. Kelly became the most popular man aboard. He was asked, “How come you received a letter and no one else has?”
“Well, my wife, bless her soul, was smart. She made four copies so I would be sure to receive at least one. One went to Manila, one to Vladivostok, one to Yokohama and this one right here to Nagasaki,” Kelly responded.
By the beginning of the new year, the men had been on the THOMAS for forty-four days with no money. Some of them began to write nonnegotiable checks. Copeland recalled, “I was called to Colonel Emerson’s office about rumors of some that had issued bogus checks.”
The early days of 1918 passed. An interest in railways was ever present. Turner wrote that the Japanese railway was owned by the government which offered the corpsman free transportation. Some of them took a sixty-five mile train ride to another town. Many of the men enjoyed fraternizing with the Japanese engineers.
Turner said” “The trains are smaller than ours but they made about the same speed and were nearly always on time. The passenger cars were nearly as wide but not quite so long as ours and the seats went along each side so all the people faced each other. The sleepers had about twelve sections holding twenty-four people in all.”
There was free entertainment available at the local YMCA run by G. Ernest Trueman. Members would gather there for singing, billiards, sports such as handball and volley ball, religious services and bible classes. Any sort of group experience helped to wile away the long hours. At the Y some of the corpsmen were introduced to Japanese girls from a local mission school, the Kwassui Jo Gakko, where games, skits and social meetings with a religious flavor were held on Sunday afternoons.
There was always a bit of diversion in watching the milling crowds in the narrow streets, including the Russian and Chinese refugees fleeing the Revolution. The aimlessness of this expatriate existence was indicated by Copeland’s notation: “There are a great many Russians now in Japan that have managed to get away with a bunch of money and their families. There is nothing for them to do in Japan and the hotels sure put it over on the prices and I am wondering how long they can stick it out.” Many Russians sought residences in outlying resort hotels where the corpsmen met them socially and thereby improved their knowledge of the Russian language.
Reminiscing about those days in Japan, Kelly said he remembers Ray Moore and some others toppling overboard in an attempt to negotiate the leap to the gangplank. He also recalled the party in Nagasaki when they “first met the shore folks and had the rush for the mamas with Spud Sullivan and Mike Komiske doing well.” He can still hear Hirsch laughing when the Captain took his drum to try to impress a certain Mrs. Adams.

On January 7th the men were told to make a full list of the contents of their trunks and grips for customs. They were astounded at how much they had accumulated. Turner recorded that his contingent, No. 11, composed of Southern Pacific men, was stationed in probably the best hotel “because the bunch consisted of twenty-two men; that was the number the hotel wanted.” The entire group that had started from St. Paul were accommodated by one or another hotel in Nagasaki, but all the Baldwin experts from Philadelphia were sent to a small town named Obama, a little fishing village, about forty or fifty miles from the city.

Turner wrote to his father and mother on January 12, 1918: “I am rooming with O.T. Alexander who is a Dispatcher from Bakersfield. We have a dandy large room with private bath and plenty of furniture. The building is not quite as modern as it might be but we are quite well satisfied for all we have to do when we want anything is to ring a bell and Japanese bell boys start for your room from all directions. It is not steamheated but each room has a nice fireplace which makes it more homelike. The first night we were here we sat by the fire and talked until midnight, having about the quietest evening since we left our homes…We have all our trinkets out of our trunks for the first time since we packed them. We have been cutting pictures out of magazines ever since we left San Francisco and have them pinned upon the walls now. Everyone that visits us notices them and remarks about our room being so clean and cozy. The hotel is situated on top of a hill about two blocks from where all the ships anchor and only a few blocks from the main part of town and I think about the best location of any of the hotels…”

The rest of the men were not as lucky. About one hundred and sixty-five at the Nagasaki Hotel had to “bunch up considerable, there being from four to six in each room and no furniture at all in the rooms, not even a chair or a dresser. Even the beds lacked springs.”

But even without bedsprings, hotel living was better than transport living. Portions of three other hotels were also used; many slept in rooms designed for two. Copeland complained that five men were jammed into such rooms.

Their location in the city, and the fact that they were finally paid, was the end result of Colonel Emerson receiving $50,000 from Lansing on January 7th. Emerson had promptly ordered the Corps to prepare to disembark. Up to this point the homesick men had had no mail whatsoever except for the lone letter that Kelly had received from his wife.

Immediately upon settling, the corpsmen started baseball practice and formed a Corps team which later took two trips, to Yokohama and to Tokyo. They also began to enjoy frequent parties, dances and shows. Many of these offered innocent relationships between the men and the Japanese girls. Other men had less moral relationships. Before they left the ship Copeland wrote: “Saw the Major and Captain out with two Russian women. I do not think he [sic] was on the ship last night…quite a few got their skates on last night…raised cane after midnight…They got noisy with their fireworks and were so bad they were rolling on cabin floors with the Japs and kept it up until after midnight — disgraceful.”

Copeland also note that the American Consul, a bachelor, and his secretary had succumbed to the law of concubines. However, Copeland finally went to a local bathhouse with a fellow officer and stated: “A short fat Japanese girl bathed me and never suggested anything out of the way.”
As each boat arrived from Vladivostok, the men looked for news. It was ominous. They heard that a Japanese fleet had gone to Siberia to protect Allied interests; riots in Vladivostok were prevalent. But the men could not be sure what was rumor and what was fact. The news was all that spiced their dull routine. They rose at 6:30 am, had physical exercise at 7:15, breakfast at 8:00, held a Corps meeting at 9:00 and hiked from 9:30 to 11:00. Then came lunch, followed by Russian lessons.

Much later, again writing for a souvenir booklet, Kelly asked the men if they remembered some incidents of that stay in Nagasaki: “The roast birds at the Cliff House with feet, neck, head, eyes, insides and all. Tea parties on Island Beach. Tommy Cain diving for clam shells. Harry McManus battling a devil fish. Merz and Pluto swimming back to the hotel. Pluto’s private tank behind the hotel. The herds of jelly fish coming in with the tide. The bad checks…The indignation meeting at Nagasaki Hotel over expense money. Colonel Lantry called on the carpet. Best of all, hundreds of nude men and women in muddy tanks trustfully taking the cures; they looked like cans of worms.

The leading lights of the city who were good sports when the men signed chics using their names; they paid them. The night the gang discovered the late lamented Mr. Walker’s wine cellar. The lady the Captain…brought to Lottie and Lil’s dance. She was so lovely in her evening, almost night, gown. The Japanese bathhouses and their embarrassing moments. The party [given] the navy officers while Major…listened from the room above down the fireplace flue.”
On January 23rd Porter Turner noted in his diary that he had received mail. One censored letter, written December 9th, had gone to Vladivostok first; another, dated December 17th, had gone to New York, then San Francisco, Seattle, Vladivostok and finally Nagasaki! Each was registered. This seemed to explain why such good time was made. Most of the other men were yet to receive mail.
The RRSC men entertained with their orchestra at dances and at benefits for the Y. Two dances a week were usually scheduled at different hotels. The secretary of the Y programmed a special Japanese entertainment for the benefit of Corps. “This illustrated their different kinds of musical instruments, songs, dances and their kind of wrestling which they called jujitsu, and sword dancing.” The Japanese ladies of the city gave an entertainment and recital at the Y. The entire program was in English including a little dance and an exercise by kindergarten children. There was also a tribute to the RRSC orchestra which was greatly enjoyed by the men.
The war came closer to home on January 19th when one army transport loaded with soldiers, and another loaded with hemp and sugar, arrived at port side. These transports were headed for San Francisco. The latter boat had been interned as it was a German Boat, formerly named the PRINCESS ALICE. Repairs started almost at once. The Germans had done all the damage possible without sinking the boat, even to cutting most of the large steel ribs that braced the ship; these were filled in with cement and painted over. The enemy had also put some acid in the boiler so that the transport would leak as soon as it was out to sea. News of the damage infuriated the men. Many wished they were in France instead of attending recitals on Japanese shores. They were glad when their colonel left for Siberia on January 25th. He was expected back by February 10th with a report of conditions. As it was obvious that nothing would happen before February 19th, the men decided to go on some trips.
Turner wrote to his parents: “My roommate [Alexander] and I left on our trip January 30th. We did not have the time and money to do justice to it but feel quite well satisfied as we were the first men of our rank that were permitted to go, and there are any number of them that would like to but cannot get a furlough and they will only allow three to go at a time. We went direct to Tokyo without any stops. It took us 44 hours to make the trip. We arrived there 7:10 am February 1st. We hired a jinriksha for the day and started for the museums, the first one being the military museum and it sure contained some valuable and sacred weapons. It took us about two hours to go through this and then we hurried all we could. To do the place justice a person should stay at least a day.
“Some of the ancient pictures illustrate different battles and wars this country had had and believe me they sure are great. We went all around the Imperial Palace but no one is permitted inside without a permit from our Ambassador. I guess we could have gotten that it we wished for he is an intimate friend of Alexander’s father-in-law. We called on him and had a very nice little visit. We visited four more parks containing museums, zoological gardens, and came back to the station hotel at 6 pm and had supper.
“After supper we walked around town until 11:30 pm, spending this time on the main streets. Tokyo is a city of over two million people and there does not seem to be more than a dozen buildings over two stories high. Seems they do not go much on height in this country. The main streets are quite as wide as any large city and are kept nice and clean and well sprinkled. Seldom see a cart or wagon drawn by horses, it is entirely men and women who do it. Street sprinklers, drays and carts of all kinds are very small so a man can pull them. Occasionally there are two pulling one load. The next day we called on the Ambassador and while there we met a Mr. Kennedy from Milwaukee who represents the Chalmers Auto Company and who had just returned by Petrograd [Lenengrad] and Moscow having left January 1st. He claims conditions in Russia are not very well settled but in Siberia everything seems to be very quiet and he thinks we would get along al right there but not so in European Russia. He saw a Russian General taken from his train and murdered by other soldiers and he saw dead men lying on several platforms that the train passed. It took him 18 days to make the trip from Petrograd to Vladivostok; in normal times it should have taken eight. We also met a couple of others who recently came from Petrograd who tell about the same story. We ate dinner with this Mr. Kennedy at the Imperial Hotel. After dinner we visited two more parks and then started for Yokohama which is 18 miles from Tokyo and is the seaport for Tokyo. Yokohama is not much of a place, having about 6,000 population; there are more English speaking people here than in any other town in Japan. This is because it is the main passenger port of the Empire. It was a Saturday night and there was a big dance at one of the hotels at which we were at. We sat around the lobby until 11:00 pm but did not dance as our uniforms were not quite good enough for this occasion. Besides we had on our dray brown shirts. We enjoyed the music and other amusements though. Sunday morning we got a jinrikisha and took a four hour ride around the town and harbor. There were no places of interest to visit such as those we had seen. As it was raining hard after dinner we decided to take few hours rest.”

Next the corpsmen decided to go to Kyoto. They reached Kyoto at 7:30 am and went directly to a hotel. From there they started on a sight-seeing trip of the town. The snow was quite deep. The mountains with the green trees covered with snow looked “for all the world like a beautiful Christmas card scene.”

Turner wrote about Kyoto as follows: “The Imperial Summer Palace is located here. We went around it. It sure is a magnificent place and would have loved to have gone through it. We visited Temples and shrines all day, some of them being 700 years old and constructed of wood. At two places we had to take off our shoes and we were glad we did as the inside was magnificent and to think it was so old. One temple contained 1,000 Buddha as it was rebuilt in 1266; the first one, built in 1164, was destroyed by fire but immediately rebuilt taking years to do so. The last temple we visited was open for worship and we saw some crowd and in fact a little too much crowd for it took us about an hour to go five blocks. It is the custom of the people after throwing their money on a large canvas in front of the temple to clap their hands twice and then bow their heads and seem to offer a little prayer. We then visited a couple of silk stores and would like to have bought some things there for you all as they were so pretty but could not afford it.”

On the trip the corpsmen saw the government iron mills, which covered 245,000 acres. They crossed the straits by ferry. At one point two Japanese secret service men approached them but passed them through. As the men continued on their trip, they saw pretty valleys on either side of the tract which were covered with the shocks of rice. A thin layer of ice was noted in the irrigating ditches. Groves of bamboo “that resembled willow” impressed the corpsmen. They also marvelled at the beautiful scenery with the ocean on one side and mountains on the other.
Shortly after leaving Kyoto it snowed hard, reminding the men of their native mountains. They left at 7 pm on February 4th and arrived back in Nagasaki on February 5th at 5:20 pm.
All through February the corpsmen wondered what their ultimate destination would be. Waiting it out in Japan, without any action whatever, was hard on morale.

Back in Siberia, the Bolsheviks continued to carry out their program of murder, loot, and destruction. They completely ruined the railroad. Small governments were mushrooming all over the country. The flow of crafted locomotives had long since been stopped, and thus there was no reason to call the corpsmen back to Vladivostok to assemble them.
Yet Turner wrote: “Shields, young Harrigan, Duffy, Stewart, Hawkins and McGlogan have been ordered to Harbin at once. We should follow soon. Looks now as if we will return to Russia shortly.”
The corpsmen waited impatiently, but hearing no more again reverted to entertainment. Sometimes it seemed almost impossible to realize where they were when they heard the strains of “Way Down Yonder in the Corn Field” wafting from the Y. There was a minstrel show at the Y which netted two hundred dollars for the Red Cross. The team played baseball with the Japanese shipyard team; the score was RRSC 5 – Japanese 4.

Interest in entertainment was waning, and one card home read, “We are all anxious to be moving and get to work.”

Turner wrote: “In case we come home we will then all go to France….[There is] some talk that we might go to Bagdad or Jerusalem to assist the English with their railroad and we have it from a reliable source that the English government asked for our services about a month ago in case we did not go to Russia. This would be a change from our former plans, but our salary, etc. would be the same. We are given to understand we are in the service until the end of the war in case we return to the States from here.

“For my part I want to stay in the service but several of the men want to be released if possible. This has been the greatest vacation I have ever had so am willing and expect to have to bear some hardships before long.”

Then the big news came! It was February 21, 1918, after an all-star baseball game in which the RRSC team had beaten the Japanese. At 6 pm orders were given to leave for Harbin. Everyone except the Baldwin locomotive men received these orders.

There was “much fuss and feathers” on the 22nd getting boots and clothes prepared for the expected leave on the following Wednesday. That night a big dance was held in the Nagasaki Hotel in honor of George Washington’s birthday. The men received their pay on the 23rd which was additional cause for jubilation.

Copeland recorded some entertainment that kept the men busy. They put on a show which netted enough to buy a piano. “The minstrel show was replete with costumes, wigs – everything from Yokohama.”

The Lieutenant also wrote: “The Japanese [have] excellent patriotism and soldierly qualities …after long seclusion [from] foreigners the feudal constitution is gone but the habits and morals remain…Consucianism or Buddhism do not help morals of their women like Christianity is doing…sister and wife designated by the same word, marriage of little ceremony or none, and have one or three divorces at will, and utterly unconscious of improperties of shocking obscenity of word or deed…the politeness the natives display…[is] superficial and insincere…”

Lieutenant Copeland, who was so often shocked, had become more understanding, although he did occasionally mention in his diary the “unfortunate” public toilet habits of pedestrians. In February he wrote: “Now that we are accustomed to it [the Orient] we don’t mind it one bit and the natives don’t seem to mind us; in fact they are very good to us and show us every courtesy.”
On February 26, 1918, contingents 1, 9 and 13, and some other shop men prepared to leave Nagasaki.

At 9:10 am on the 27th the BROOKLYN pulled in for coal. There were five hundred marines aboard with whom the RRSC exchanged confidences.

That day Porter Turner made out his application for the $10,000 government insurance which he assumed was part of his enlistment agreement. Later the policy was nullified.

On February 28th, at 6:30 pm, word came that the men still in Nagasaki were to remain there for the present. About one hundred had already left for Harbin. Those who remained were disgruntled. There had been such apparent certainty in the orders for departure. They had packed and planned and were eager to get out of Japan and on to the work ahead.

Turner wrote: “The rest of us expect to go soon. We will operate the roads as first outlined. Japan is calling up reserves so it looks as if they will have a hand in it soon. Send mail to Nagasaki c/o the American Consul and Russian Railway Service Corps.”

On March 3rd Whitehead’s letter stated: “One hundred and fifty men got their orders to go to Harbin. We would have all been moved, but Harbin is so full of refugees there is no room for us so we got orders to get off train and return to the hotel. Further orders may be slow in coming.”
He added that the men “had an empty feeling as they made their way back to the hotel.” How much more despondent would they have felt had they known that five more months were to pass before a small Russian vessel would take them to Vladivostok!

Porter Turner wrote one of his long letters home on the same date, March 3rd. As usual it was full of data about the men, their hopes and their worries.

The letter, although severally censored, is yet informative: “…after two trainloads had gone they [the authorities] cancelled instructions for balance of us to go. We are still here passing time away as best we can. We all think that only half of the bunch were ordered [to Harbin] and the reason they told us all to get ready was to keep us from making application to be among the ones to go. They used no discrimination at all but took the contingents starting from No. 1…each road furnished a quota of about 15 or 20 men and this quota was numbered…[ours] is No. 11 and we are too far down the list to be among the men to go, but we are looking for instructions each day to be on our ____[censored]___.

“Emerson had been around Vladivostok and Harbin for at least a month. About two weeks ago he wired for five men, who had held some office in union labor [relations] in the States, to come to Harbin to meet the employees of the Russian Railway. We now understand that the Russian employees were under the impression we were after their jobs. Possibly German spies were the cause of that. At first [our five men] were turned away and were [censored]…they called another meeting [censored]…our men convinced them of our [censored]…immediately our Colonel wired for half the contingent and Mr. Stevens, who is now in Yokohama, but has been in Russia since the Root party visited Petrograd, wired for all of us. On these instructions we all got ready to go, but about ten hours after the second train departed we were advised to remain here for the present. The route taken from here to Harbin is first, a seven hour train ride, ten hour boat ride across the Japan Sea from Moji to Fusan, Korea, and then about a 60 hour train ride. You folks no doubt have glanced at a map since I came over her and notice that the[censored]…Manchuria, China for about 1,100 miles. Vladivostok is situated on a little point of Siberia that runs down coast and it is only a few miles, the railroad turns (before it enters China) and enters Siberia again at Abagaitui. We are of the opinion that we will handle Siberian Railways from Vladivostok to Abagaitui to see that no ammunition now stored in Vladi gets to Germans in case they sign the peace.

Japan has called her reserves out and possible we will be transporting the Japanese army to police the Siberian Railway. There is going to be some kind of a move by Japan and we look for it to be soon. I think they will be in charge of Vladivostok before this reaches you. We hope to leave here soon as [we] do not think it will be a very healthy city during warm weather. It is bad enough in cool weather. Sewers are all open and many other things do not leave a very pleasant odor.”

The letter offers enlightenment concerning the following vital matters: the movement of certain contingents’ Emerson’s activities; Stevens’ presence in Yokohama; the time required to reach Harbin; and the fear of Allied munitions falling into German hands. Most significant of all, here is mention of Japanese military activity, and police action along the Siberian railways – all this fully five months before the arrival of Allied troops in Vladivostok.

In a lighter vein, Turner talked about ball games played, about routine and about clothes. “I purchased a new military overcoat and uniform here recently…I got them for less than half of what I would have to pay for them in the States…Silks do not seem very cheap.” The second week in March was a socially active one which served to lift the gloom. A Mrs. Neilson gave a dinner on the 6th: “It was the best feed we had since we came to Nagasaki; turkey and ice cream, followed by dancing in the dining room at the Cliff. About twenty couples were present. Fine time.”

A Mrs. Walker played hostess on many occasions. She gave a tea on the 9th, a dance on the 11th “with one lady in a white gown with very low neck dress on.” and a tea and card party on the 13th. There were other dances at the Nagasaki Hotel, plus baseball games and “sundry other amusements.”

Vacations of all kinds became boring, and boredom was stifling. One man said that a pistol range would have provided excitement.

On March 20th the LOGAN arrived in Nagasaki. The men were delighted to get aboard to buy American candy and to talk with fellow Americans. A party was given for the sailors. There Turner met a man with whom he had attended high school in Forks, Minnesota. “It was a good feeling out there in Japan to see a familiar face.”

News from Harbin indicated that the morale of the Americans there had deteriorated. Although good sleeping, eating and dining cars were available, there were other depressive factors. The number of German spies in the city was increasing daily.

The RRSC men in China firmly hoped that the Allies would put an army into Siberia before the Germans managed to gain control. The Americans did not think Japan should be permitted to go in unilaterally. Here again, five months before the Allied intervention, the handwriting was on the wall. The cognizant Americans worried and wondered.

Although tiddlywinks and fudge making were popular pastimes during 1918, the following passage in one man’s diary looks strange today. Yet it was written by a six-footer weighing over two hundred pounds who was well-known as a “great guy” and a “regularly sport.” His entry read: “…Went to a Japanese dinner given by Mrs. Neilson. Had chicken sukiyuaki etc. Afterwards went to Mrs. Neilson’s rooms at 9:30 pm to play tiddlywinks and hearts. We made fudge later and had a fine time. Good bunch.” March wore on with its mild amusements, its letter writing and ball games and its constant talk of events that might follow.

On that last day of March the men celebrated Easter Sunday. The people observed this holiday in much the same manner as Americans. The weather had warmed and the cherry blossoms were aglow. It was before the rainy season which usually lasted from early May to mid-June. The men could not seem to get enough of the beauty of the blossoms. One man wrote: “They look like dark pink double small roses and grow right out of the branch without a leaf on the tree. At night there are fancy lanterns hung among the trees in the parks, each with an electric bulb. Pure white blossoms look like snow balls on the trees.”

On March 31st Turner wrote: “Dear Father & Mother, the cherry blossoms ar out in full which adds a very beautiful effect to the city and surrounding hills as they are all over the country. The city has a very small cherry park about two miles from my hotel. Trees there are exceptionally fine all lit up by small electric lights and as the cherry trees have no leaves yet a person would almost think they were covered with a few inches of pure white snow. The trees are about twenty feet height with a perfect trunk and limbs…too bad there is no odor from the blossoms for it sure would be fragrant.”

Turner found a number of things missing, especially birds, insects and flowers. “I do not remember seeing a bird since we came over here, and I have walked over several mountains and kept my eye out for them.” Later in Siberia, some of the men again mentioned that birds were extremely scarce.

“It seems as though this [Japan] would be an ideal place for flies as the sewers are all open and the canals have an odor that is hard to get by without a gas mask. And it will probably be worse when the warm weather arrives. Summer uniforms are about ready. We look forward to the happy thought of moving soon. The members in Harbin are located in barracks now, and we understand we will go there as soon as they have accommodations for us.”

The last week of March, sixteen of the men visited a coal mine located on three small islands about twelve miles distant. The coal company officials took the men out and back in a private launch and gave them a banquet and a short voyage around several other islands. Dinner was eaten atop an island in the open air. The view of the water on all sides, spotted with small sailing and fishing smacks, was beautiful to see on that perfect day.

As guests of the itsubish Shipyard Company, the men were also given the opportunity to see the launching of an ocean liner. “The great monster balanced on a narrow track about five fee wide and slid into the water with magnificent grace.”

The Locomotive Erection Unit, comprised of the Baldwin experts who had joined the men at San Francisco such an age ago, was now going home as fast as the liners could leave. The first group of seventeen left of April 1, 1918. Others followed in small groups as soon as available space permitted. Due to the cessation of sending crated locomotives, the need for the locomotive erectors was over. Therefore, those men were simply ordered back without ever seeing Vladivostok again. Some of them who had not taken advantage of that one leave in “Vladi” were furious that they had wasted so many months.

During the late Japanese spring, train trips were as common as they were free. The men visited such places as Tokyo, Yokohama and Kobe. They often rode in the engine or strolled through the train to observe methods of Japanese railway operation.

Copeland reported: “They have no conductor but a guard for every two coaches. He sounds a whistle he caries, and the engineer gives a short blast on a whistle and away they go. The trains are run on the block and staff system. The engineer is the whole cheese. They run very fast down the grades.”

The track ran along the shores of the bays, past terraced hillsides and through frequent tunnels to emerge suddenly into new vistas of sailboats and islands in a sparkling sea. At the stations trains would stop for tea. Boys with pots of the brew were there to see their wares. One hundred or more teapots would pile up on the platform. At Nagasaki, at the end of a run, there was a shanty containing hundreds of teapots which had been shipped back baggage, to be readied for the next run.

Kobe’s hotels, gardens, terraced hillsides, and commercial centers caught Lieutenant Copeland’s interest. While aboard the ferry on his return trip, he met an elderly American in a naval uniform accompanied by two Japanese Christian ministers. “He was Captain W.H. Hardy the only living survivor of the Perry expedition to Japan in 1853 and 1854. He came here in November and [is] going back home in June. I understand he is a guest of the Japanese Government but he is also doing a lot of missionary work.” Captain Hardy was pleased to see someone in the United States’ uniform and spoke to the lieutenant for nearly two hours.

The RRSC men enjoyed trips, including those across the bay by steamer to Omura, center of pearl fisheries. At the cultured pearl button factory boys and girls of ten to twelve years were sorting, cutting, grinding and drilling buttons for about fifteen to twenty-five cents a day.
The Mountainous area on Kyushu also afforded vacation spots. In March the Japanese Tourist Trade Bureau provided fourteen men with an interpreter and guide to a volcano called Aso. Copeland was one of the party. In spite of a raging storm he edged up to the crater on his stomach and peered at the “seething lava.”

At one resort the men sat on cushions around fire pots and ate raw fish, cold tongue and pickled vegetables with chopsticks as six waitresses watched and giggled at their inexperience. Other men took sampans on fishing parties, and some of them had tea on the small island.

On April 9th O.T. Alexander, W.A. Kelly, F.M. Kelly and Porter Turner were pallbearers at the funeral of one Cedric Houben at 2 pm at the Catholic Church.

On the 11th, Turner fractured his left cheek bone during a baseball game against the Japanese team at the Commercial School. He was playing left field, and Moore right, when they collided in the ninth inning. The collision blackened Turner’s eye and give him much discomfort. He was, however, able to attend a Japanese dinner on the 16h given by the Japanese team for the RRSC team. “Fie time but eats not very good, too much raw food. Geisha dancers and Japanese music.”
Kelly and Turner thoroughly enjoyed a trip to Unzen where they spent a few days at a summer resort about sixty miles up into the mountains at an altitude of 2,000 feet. Many picture post cards exist today as a reminder of that trip.

Later, in Nagasaki, the men marvelled at the way children took care of babies. Even six-year olds were seen with six-month old babies strapped on their backs while their mothers worked. They noted that many Chinese men had taken Japanese wives.

Copeland said: “The Chinese women wear trousers and have feet about four inches long and walk as though they had no ankle joint. It’s often you see a Japanese girl and a Chinese girl going along with their arms around one another. The Chinese with trousers and the Japanese with the Kimono.” He also mentioned that a law was then enforced prohibiting the binding of the feet of infants.

As day followed day, the news of conditions in Siberia which trickled back was anything but encouraging. Reports indicated that the men in Harbin were still not working, although a few were out on the line keeping records of trains and conditions. Those who had been left in Nagasaki began to fear indefinite exile in Japan.

Real tears were shed whin the men received news of the death of a young Chinese woman, the wife of a favorite Chinese tailor. The tailor had a Japanese wife as well as a young Chinese wife. He had bought the latter in Shanghai for 2000 yen. “She seemed to cry most of the time as though she was lonesome for her mother,” Copeland reported, “or perhaps because she did not get along with her husband’s other wife.” Copeland thought she was the best-looking Chinese woman he had ever seen and was dismayed when she died in childbirth. A number of the corpsmen attended the woman’s Shinto funeral at which they burned gold and silver paper representing money.

It was late in April when news came of some activity which would take Colonel Emerson far into Siberia. All the corpsmen had hoped to go, but the Emerson party was made up of a select few who travelled four and one-half months before they encountered the rest of the RRSC again.

Chapter VIII
Emerson’s Trip Across Siberia
April to September 1918

While the corpsmen were biding their time in Japan, grave altercations were occurring in Siberia between the Russians and the Czecho-Slovaks.

On April 26, 1918, Colonel Stevens received a telegram from the Secretary of State. It directed him to order Colonel Emerson to go to Vologda at once to confer with Ambassador Harris. Emerson was instructed to have two engineers accompany him. Harris agreed to make arrangements for a special car to insure safe conduct for the Emerson party. The State Department approved the action.

Stevens alerted Emerson who selected the following to accompany him: Lieutenant Colonels R.D. Hawkins and G.S.S. Stewart, Major B.O. Johnson, Lieutenants O.A. Bjonerud and F.M. Haynes. In addition he included M.H. Bunting, a mechanical engineer representing the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Bunting’s familiarity with the Russian language (including mechanical and railway terminology) made him a useful addition. W.G. Lendon, an interpreter, was also included but left the party at Krasnoyarsk on May 31, 1918.

The group left Harbin for Vladivostok on May 4th and arrived on the 5th. A visit to American Consul Caldwell and Admiral Knight of the BROOKLYN was made on the 6th. It surprised Emerson to find that neither Caldwell nor Knight had any authority to deal with the Soviet Government which was in control of the railways. Emerson was instructed to deal directly with local authorities for railway transportation arrangements!

Being completely unfamiliar with prevailing conditions, the party decided to gather an adequate supply of provisions. Svetlanskya Street and its adjoining alleys were combed for anticipated necessities.

The Chinese-Eastern Railway refused Emerson any equipment and requested his party vacate the two cars which had been assigned to them, Chinese-Eastern #209 and #2015. The local government supplied Amur Service Car #1 and International Sleeping Car #2035. There was no car available with cooking accommodations, but the Corps took #2015 to Nikolsk where they were assured they would find a suitable car. If, however, they could not find one a Nikolsk, they were assured there would be one available at Khabarovsk.

At 9 am, May 19, 1918, the Emerson party left Vladivostok. Major H.H. Slaughter, an Assistant Military Attache of the American Embassy accompanied the party. The Corps passed through Nikolsk and on to Khabarovsk and still found no dining car. Then the Chinese-Eastern Railway officials announced that the Americans would have to give up car #2015. While mulling over their predicament, A.M. Krasnotchkiv, President of the Soviet Far Eastern Commissaire, sent an automobile to convey the Emerson party to his office.

“I will facilitate arrangements for you if you will first inspect two government plants here,” Emerson was told. The latter agreed and arranged to leave the next day. Travel was by daylight to afford a visible inspection of the Amur Line.

On May 23rd the Americans witnessed thirty-five carloads of German and Turkish prisoners. Emerson was astounded at the effrontery of one of the German officers, formerly a professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago. The latter stated blatantly that his men hoped to reach their destination in sixty days and take up arms at once on the Western Front.

After inspecting the prisoners, the railroad representatives rode over the Amur Line with the Emerson party and showed them terminal facilities. Emerson reported that the Amur Railway, which had been in operation for less than a year, was better than he had anticipated except for four hundred versts of unballasted track. Inspection indicated, however, that traffic could be carried on successfully although permanent bridges had not been completed. There was a critical shortage of locomotives and repair shops. Water facilities were hampered by extreme cold and by the depth of the frost.

Colonel Robbins, associated with the American Red Cross, and several echelons of Czecho-Slovaks met the Emerson party. The train moved on to Chita where it arrived May 25, 1918. At Chita the RRSC attempted to report to American Consul Jenkins per instructions. To add to mounting delays it was found Jenkins had proceeded ahead to Itkutsk.

Letters, many of which had been written by candlelight, or at the side of a ditch as the train slowed somewhere for tea, were now left with an official of the International Harvester Company. He agreed to “attend to all mailings.”

The Corps decided to move ahead toward Irkutsk. Consul Jenkins was located at a small way station. The tunnels of the railway skirting beautiful Lake Baikal had all been mined. This precaution had been taken by the Bolsheviks themselves in an effort to hold off Semeonov and his army.

Grigorii Mihailovich Semeonov was known in Siberia as a cruel and ruthless leader. He was a self-appointed dictator-general with a bandit army of 25,000 to 50,000 men. Semeonov had recruited these men in his marauding across Siberia. His band consisted mainly of renegade Cossacks, Buriats, prisoners of war and cutthroat criminals. His headquarters were at Chita, toward which the Emerson party was now headed.

Semeonov had armored trains operating out of Chita. They carried one-quarter inch armor plate backed by eighteen inches of reinforced concrete. Each train was equipped with ten machine guns, two 3-inch guns and two 1-pounders and was manned by two officers and about fifty-seven men. Some of the trains carried women, of various reputations and various nationalities, in oriental splendor. These formidable trains later bore such names as Merciless, Horrible, Terrible, Master, Redoubtable and Destroyer. The approach of such trains caused panicked inhabitants of many villages. They would flee in fear, to hide until the trains passed through. When stops were made, havoc and butchery ensued.

This was as early as May, 1918, long before the American Expeditionary Forces arrived. The bandits had so terrified their own countrymen that local inhabitants had mined the tunnels to obstruct the passage of Semeonov’s men.

Men of the AEFS regarded Semeonov in these terms: “Semeonov’s soldiers and officers alike were poorly clad. Their clothes were almost in rags and they wore paper in place of socks.” “In the restaurants he and his men would push their way to the table nearest the kitchen and grab the first tray that came out.” “He was a robber-baron, ostensibly White Russian but recruiting through intimidation and living off the country.” “His troops practiced rape and confiscation.” “He was a typical Cossack Commander, and carried out the old Russian tradition of the army.” “He was a murderer.” “He was brutal and inhuman.”

The thought of Semeonov’s men maneuvering about caused consternation in the Emerson party as it inspected Baikal station and the docks.

From there the Americans moved into Irkutsk to meet the new Consul General Ernest L. Harris. In conferring with Harris, Consul McGowan and a representative of the Soviet, Emerson stated that it was imperative that his party proceed to Vologda at once. He, Emerson, would appreciate all enabling arrangements to be made immediately. “We have had many delays so far,” he stated.

Harris reported the Czecho-Slovaks difficulties with the Bolsheviks and stated the desire of the Czecho-Slovaks to proceed to Vladivostok and home. Emerson wondered if their migration would hinder the progress of the engineering party. He was assured it would not.
When Emerson’s party left Irkutsk, a detachment of Czecho-Slovaks was noted pulling out of the yards. Along the way westward peasants were observed busily putting in grain. Arriving at Krasnoyarsk at 7:15 pm, May 27, 1918, the stationmaster reported trouble ahead. No further progress was possible.

Emerson conferred with American Vice Consul Edward B. Thomas who introduced him to a Mr. Weinbaum, president of the Soviet and Governor of the Province. The latter advised them that the “disgraceful Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was forced upon us but the Russians will start to mobilize an army against the common enemy late in the fall. We have sent out 1,000 regulars of the Red Army to make peace and we want the Czechs through to Vladivostok without further trouble. I think the delay was started by some drunken sailors attacking the Czechs.”
Emerson was told that before he could proceed to Vologda the situation at Marinsk had to be settled.

“Do you wish our services as mediator?” asked the Colonel.
The officer was accepted and Major Slaughter sent the following communication:

Krasnoyarsk, Siberia
May 28, 1918

To The Commanding Officer of the Czechish [sic] Troops Station Marinsk

Colonel Emerson in charge of American Railroad Engineers en route to Vologda on the orders of the American Government will leave Krasnioarksy [sic] special train this a.m. Very important you defer all action until Colonel Emerson can confer with you. In the interest of the United States this mission must not be delayed. You arrange conference on his arrival.

(signed) Slaughter
Major United States Army

The conference was arranged. Emerson questioned the basis on which the officers would settle with the Czecho-Slovaks, who the Bolsheviks now claimed to be responsible for all difficulties. The Colonel was told that the Bolsheviks would request the Czecho-Slovaks to disarm before being permitted to proceed to Vladiovstok. The Russian Army Commander had prepared the following conditions:

1. That all Czecho-Slovaks would disarm.
2. That the Russians would permit the movement of all disarmed Czecho-Slovaks in an expedited manner to Vladivostok.
3. That the Czecho-Slovaks would promise that they would not in any way directly or indirectly interfere with internal or governmental affairs in Russia.
4. That both Russian and Czecho-Slovak authorities would appoint a commission to investigate some supposed trouble which Russians understood had precipitated trouble at Marinsk and would punish offenders.
5. That the Russian authorities would guarantee to return to the Czecho-Slovaks any foreign-owned ammunition etc. at Vladivostok which might have been taken away from them en route.

Emerson pondered the details. Informal discussions were held. The Russian authorities promised to put a Red Army guard with each Czecho-Slovak train to guarantee safety of the soldiers on the train to Vladivostok. This guard was to be more than equivalent to the protection the Czecho-Slovaks would have had were they permitted to keep twenty rifles with each train.
The Russians agreed that the Czecho-Slovaks would be allowed twenty rifles per train if Emerson would guarantee, “in the name of the American Government,” that the Czecho-Slovaks would not take advantage of this supply.

“It is impossible to do this,” the Colonel told the Russians. “Such an agreement must between you and the Czecho-Slovaks by signed contracts. However,” he added, “I will also sign the contract if both of you sign, if I can be convinced both sides are sincere in their intention of carrying out provisions of the agreement.”

Question upon question was raised. When the Conference finished, a small inspection car was furnished to Colonels Emerson, Hawkins and Stewart and the Majors Johnson and Slaughter (U.S. Army). The group proceeded to Czecho-Slovak headquarters.

The train moved forward with a wilte flag and a United States’ flag “flying in the breeze.” It crossed the lines into Marinshk where a conference was held with the Czecho-Slovaks.
The Soviets now seemed to be willing to help the Czecho-Slovaks. The latter, who previously had been amendable to Bolshevik ideals which they considered democratic, became suddenly distrubed when they learned that there was strong pro-German influence in the Bolshevik ranks. The Czecho-Slovaks abandoned their original purpose (to leave Russia for a speedy exodus to France) and departed from their original intention of strict indifference to Russian politics. They became engaged in opposing one Russian faction and supporting another.
This was not only confusing to Emerson and to some of the Russians but later was to cause consternation in Allied headquarters, especially in view of the fact that at this time Allied support to help extricate the Czecho-Slovaks was gaining momentum.

According to Laurence Packard, who made a study of the situation for the War Department, the change of the Czecho-Slovak attitude may have been caused by one or more of the following:

1. Genuine and protracted provocation by the Bolsheviks may have stung the Czecho-Slovaks into resentment and drawn their fire, causing real intervention in Russian affairs.
2. In view of the complete debacle of Russian, the Czech leaders who possessed vision and ambition, may have siezed the opportunity to make a reputation and accomplish great things for the new Czecho-Slovakia.

3. A mere accident may have revealed the Russian situation in its entirety as a remarkable opportunity against which the Czecho-Slovaks had stumbled, and for which they had only to grasp. Retention could be had after a slight vigorous effort.

4. Outside advise and proffers of assistance may have foreseen the opportunities afforded, through the instrumentality of the Czecho-Slovaks, to exercise a decisive influence at a critical moment on the trend of Russian affairs. Preparation to persuade the Czechs may have been extended and careful, or close observation, coupled with quick action, may have seized upon the fortunate accidet at Cheliabinsk toconvince the Czecho-Slovaks of their opportunity and to demonstrate the ease with which important things could be accomplished.

It does not seem likely that Emerson was cognizant of the problems when he went forth with white and United States’ flags flying to meet the Czecho-Slovaks at Marinsk.
After the Czecho-Slovak ARmy began to leave Penza, some 450 miles west of the Urals, in European Russia, the official version described the situation as follows: “The local Soviets, one after another, put all sorts of obstacles in our [the Czecho-Slovaks’] way. In Samara, about 400 versts beyond Penza the local Soviet demanded we give up still more arms. These demands were repeated in Ufa, Zlatoust, Omsk, Irkutsk, Chita, and so on along the line.”
According to Packard there seemed to be some question in his final report. He stated: “If there were only ten rifles and one machine gun for 1,000 men left with the Czecho-Slovaks who had ‘Honestly and Loyally’ lived up to the agreement made with the Soviets in Penza it is astonishing that at so many places along the line there should have been such an insistent demand for further surrender of arms. Assuming that there were 50,000 Czecho-Slovaks making the journey, and it is very improbable that there were as many, there should have been, according to this ‘honestly observed agreement’, 500 rifles scattered among them and 50 machine guns. Now if the whole army moved as indicated…about 3,000 men to every four trains or about 750 or 1,000 men per train there may have been as many as 65 or 70 trains engaged. This would mean that as many as seven to ten rifles and one machine gun should have been carried on each train. Colonel Landon states that there were 40,000 – 44,000 Czechs in 20 trains.”
Packard went on to say that it is hardly creditable that, unless the Czecho-Slovaks want only abused the power of this slight armament, so much insistence could have been called forth from the Russians on the question of Disarmament. An impartial observer is forced, he said, into a dilemma on this important point. Either the Czecho-Slovaks retained more guns than the agreement allowed, thus giving just cause for Soviet apprehension, or they so used the few they retained that trouble resulted.
Considering the official version further, he reported: “In Samara the echelons gave up 138 rifles a piece leaving only 300 to an echelon! In Omsk each echelon gave up a machine gun and in Irkutsk more rifles until there were left by 20 to an echelon.” The size of the echelon was probably 3,000 men.
He added that if the official reports were correct there was a clear discrepancy between the stipulated number of arms to be retained and the number actually retained. It was not surprising, therefore, that trouble developed.
The Soviet commander bragged to Emerson of eight “aeroplanes,” but the RRSC men could find none. Emerson kept his mind alert as he proceeded. Slaughter had been informed there were 2,500 Red guards, but could find no evidence of such a number. He estimated about “800 practically without organization” and, as a fighting force, he considered them “valueless.”
Going forward to Marinsk, Emerson found a small outpost about 1,000 yards to the north of Red Army Headquarters. There he saw some thirty unmounted men plus six mounted. Further north there was a crossing about 4000 yards from Marinsk. At a road crossing, a picket of forty men was noted, including a few mounted. No sentries were seen anywhere. About 2,000 yards from the Marinsk bridge a line of individual pits were noted on each side of the track for about 250 yards west to a marsh. These pits were about seven feet from center to center, and in each a soldier was busily digging.
Movement in the brush both at right and left showed other men about. The total number seemed to Emerson not to exceed 1,000. They were equipped with Russian regular army repeating rifles, although some men had the old worn out single-loading type without bayonet. Former Russian Army uniforms were seen and many men wore brown canvas outfits, apparently newly made from regulation patterns. The outfits resembled American fatigues. Officers had field glasses and pistols. In general, the caliber of men seen was not high. There was no apparent plan of operation among them except to attack. The commander seemed to be the least intelligent appearing!
Emerson pondered the Soviet situation as he made his way to the Czecho-Slovak position. He had been given to understand that the forces of the Czecho-Slovaks between this point and Novo-Nikolayevsk consisted of the 7th Regiment plus one battalion of the 6th, minus some few elements, making a total of about 4,500 men. He wondered if the Czecho-Slovak reports were also exaggerated. No information was volunteered about Czecho-Slovak strength, equipment or numbers to the rear. Apparently the Czecho-Slovaks had equipped themselves amply from captured material taken at various towns.
Emerson approached the Czecho-Slovak position and found an outpost of nine men at a little house with a road crossing 450 yards south of the bridge. There were nine men at the bridge at Marinsk, and five more, and a cold machine gun, marked “Browning Patent 1915,” opposite the bridge. About five hundred yards to the east a 3-inch field gun, apparently of Russian origin, was emplaced. Three men were on guard. At the station, about 2,000 yards from the bridge, was another Russian 3-inch gun mounted on one of the American gondola cars. A self-contained 80 cm base range finder and a battery commander’s observation telescope of the scissors type were also observed. The Czecho-Slovaks seemed to be in complete control of Marinsk and in charge of the German and Austrian prisoners. They had replaced the local guards with their own.
Emerson heard that there were 1,100 men commanded by Czecho-Slovak Commander E.O. Kadlets, who had with him a Russian officer with the rank of captain. While no men were observed to the west of town, it was learned that outposts were placed on the railroad about 1000 yards west of the station. The Czecho-Slovaks wore good presentable uniforms. They were bright, strong-looking men, intelligent, and apparently well-disciplined and confident that they could whip any number of Russians. One bridge to the east was reported prepared for demolition with charges in place.
War certainly seemed imminent at the Marinsk front. It was quite a sight for an American railroad man to see when all he had intended to do was make a survey of the railway. No one would have expected this, yet conditions here were ultimately to lead President Wilson to send an American Expeditionary Force to Siberia. Emerson wondered if he and his railroad men would be a part of the war that seemed imminent. Their job was to keep the Trans-Siberian Railroad open. They realized that the job was more important now than ever but did not know how it could be accomplished.
Czecho-Slovak Captain Kadlets greeted Emerson upon his arrival on May 29, 1918. The first Marinsk Conference was held. Colonel Emerson stated that he had sent a wire for suspension of active hostilities, pending an effort to reconcile differences between the Czecho-Slovaks and Red Guards concerning their movements through Siberia.
“When we took Marinsk,” Kadlets told him, “we asked the Russian Military Commander to permit through movement of freight and passenger trains but were refused.”
Emerson explained that he was there in an unofficial capacity. He stated that they were railway engineers from the United States en route to Vologda and that Major Slaughter was with them “We only want to help if we can. But we must keep the Trans-Siberian Railway open.”
“I understand,” Kadlets replied, nodding his head in agreement. “We have no objections whatever to your passing.”
“But you do not understand. We not only want to pass. We want to help mediate a peace between you and the Russians. I offer my services in this matter for the good of all, as I am an unbiased observer.”
“Thank you just the same,” came the unexpected answer from Kadlets, “but we do not intend to disarm under any circumstances whatever.”
“May I ask if you have had any molestation of trouble between South Russia and Marinsk?”
“We have had no molestation since leaving South Russia territory under immediate German influence. But the German influence is becoming so strong that we are afraid of capture by the Germans if we are further detained and unarmed.”
“There are 12,000 Czecho-Slovaks in Vladivostok and 3,000 en route between Marinsk and Vladivostok. In a conversation with a number of these men they had all unanimously stated that they had not been molested in Russia and their only complaint was excessive delay getting through Russia and Siberia,” Emerson told the Czecho-Slovaks and added that he himself had experienced the same sort of annoying delays.
“We are of the opinion,” Kadlets said, “that there will be trouble east of Marinsk because of the rapid extension of the German influence and we believe Berlin has ordered this delay to make our capture possible later.”
As this quibbling seemed to lead nowhere, Emerson tried another tactic. “Do you know,” he asked, “that it is vital that the Trans-Siberian Railway not be blocked, nor traffic on it be interrupted? As a railway engineer I have learned a good many things about the possibility of effectively interrupting traffic on the TSRR. In the Baikal Station the tunnels were mined. If those tunnels were blown up an army could not get through that district in much less than two years. The Allies positively do not want the TSRR blocked and we must have careful consideration of this situation so that we can attempt to discover a peaceful solution to the predicament.”

The conversation went on and on. Kadlets did not believe the Soviets would blow up the tunnels. Then suddenly Emerson wondered if the real reason for the situation was not political, for Kadlets said the Czecho-Slovaks could exist in Siberia indefinitely.

“In fact,” Captain Kadlets calmly told the Colonel, “we could, without any trouble, control Siberia. Since we took over Novo-Nikolayevsk a new government had been instituted at that point and it is under Czecho-Slovak protection.”
He admitted that he and other Czecho-Slovak commanders had instructions from Penza to capture all towns where their orders happened to take them and to remain until they received further orders to proceed. The direction of the movement was to be toward Novo-Nikolayevsk.
“Sorry,” said the Captain, “I would like to avoid bloodshed but I have to wait for my orders and will remain here at Marinsk for reinforcements of other troops moving up from the west.”
“I guess there is not much more I can do then.” said the disappointed Emerson. “I will have to go back now to the Red Guard Army, ten verst east of Marinsk, and explain the situation and try to avoid trouble, but I am deeply concerned as to the outcome.”
“Why do you not go to Novo-Nikolayevsk and confer with our Commanding Officer, Gaida?” asked Kadlets. “Any final agreement will have to come from him.”
“Do you have ammunition?”
“Yes plenty, and I can get more.” Kadlets answered.
“If I go to see Gaida will you remain inactive at Marinsk?”
“Yes, providing my adversaries will do the same.”

After much talk, Emerson proceeded with Czecho-Slovak permission. Emerson was to guarantee a reply by messenger within three days as to the action decided upon at Novo-Nikolayevsk.
“If at the end of three days no information is received I will open hostilities,” Kadlets said.
After the conference at Marinsk, the entire RRSC party returned to the Red Army Headquarters where their cars were located. They had a short talk with President Weinbaum. At first he refused to consider a movement to see Gaida. Later he agreed. He said he would make the arrangements providing Colonel Emerson would personally guarantee the safe conduct of three of his men. Emerson did not think this was wise.

Finally Weinbaum, much excited, stated that they would start immediate action against the Czecho-Slovaks. “We regret destroying the village of Marinsk and the railroad bridge just east but it has become a military necessity. Furthermore, we will cut the line each side of Marinsk and we have ordered some 15,000 troops to Suslovo to annihilate every Czech operating against us. What right have they,” he screamed waving his arms, “what right have they to come here. France has, through concerted action with the Czech troops en route, taken Siberia in 24 hours.” It had been suggested that the entire party should move back to Krasnoyarsk. A train was made up consisting of RRSC equipment and several cars for the accommodation of the Soviet Committee. They left Suslova at 11 pm en route to Krasnoyarsk.

At the siding of the Red Army Headquarters there were about thirty troop cars of which not more than one-third were prepared with troop shieving. The others had only some straw scattered over the bottoms. A Packard three-ton military truck was on a flat car. There was also a carload of mixed supplies including 250,000 rounds of ammunition, had grenades and gas bombs.

The RRSC party arrived at Krasnoyarsk at noon on May 30th. Five representatives entered the meeting car. Theodore Litkin and a Mr. Yakolaf were reported to represent the national Central Soviet Committee of Siberia at Irkutsk. Rudolph Viest, a Mr. Schameaat and a Mr. Riedke reported that the Czecho-Slovaks and Russians had met at Irkutsk on May 26th where a flight, lasting thirty minutes, had taken place.

Worried that the Czecho-Slovaks and Russians would fight if a sudden command were given by anyone in authority on either side, Emerson said he would wire the American Consul at Irkutsk. He gave the message to President Weinbaum who later told Emerson that the message had been sent. Yet, on May 31st Emerson went to the telegraph office himself and repeated his message. He asked Mr. Harris to come to the wire. Harris had not received any message whatever!
Emerson advised Harris that the President of the Central Siberian Committee and the Czecho-Slovak Commander Kadlets were in agreement to discontinue military activities under certain conditions. Emerson asked for the presence of the French Military Attache at a mediation meeting and required an immediate reply, stating that the Soviet Committee would supply a train for Harris’ transportation to Krasnoyarsk.
After the exchange of several additional telegrams, a telegraphic conversation between Emerson and Harris was set up on the evening of May 31st. Arrangements were made for Emerson to go ahead to Marinsk. Harris would remain in Irkutsk. He admonished Emerson that “Americans must impress upon the Czecho-Slovaks and upon the Soviets that we are all fighting the common enemy and in unity lies success.”
Harris was not specific as to the nature of the “common enemy” nor of what constituted “success.” The very use of the word “fighting” appears incongruous in view of the basic American decision to keep the railroad open without involvement in internal Russian affairs. This decision was perhaps the greatest incongruity of the entire episode. It was the root cause for the concision which surrounded the RRSC adventure and the later intervention.
On Sunday, June 2, 1918, Colonel Emerson went into conference at Marinsk with Gaida and Kadlets of the Czecho-Slovak army. The Czecho-Slovaks still stubbornly refused to give up arms, no matter who gave assurances that this would speed their trek to Vladivostok. As the Czecho-Slovaks at that very moment, were being attacked at numerous points by the Soviets, they would not deviate from this premise.
Later that day Emerson met with the Soviet representatives, Gregory Weinbaum and Theodore Litkin. The latter were advised of the Czecho-Slovak position on arms. After the usual quibbling back and forth, Emerson summarized the Czecho-Slovak intent:

1. The Czecho-Slovaks would proceed to Irkutsk fully armed.
2. At Irkutsk they would negotiate with French and American representatives regarding their movement to Vladivostok.
3. The Czecho-Slovaks would leave, going eastward from Marinsk toward Irkutsk but demanded assurance, by their own representatives of the rear guard, that no further attacks were continued upon the Czecho-Slovaks to the west.
4. All military activities would cease in Marinsk.

The Soviet representatives objected to the insistent demand by the Czecho-Slovaks to remain armed. The Soviets considered that the Czecho-Slovak lack of faith in their word constituted “changed conditions.” After deliberation the Soviets requested another conference.
A second meeting of the Soviet representatives and Colonel Emerson convened June 2nd at 3 :30 pm. At 7:15 pm Emerson met again with the Czecho-Slovak officers. Commander Gaida finally left, stating that if no agreement was reached by the next day, June 3rd, military action would commence. The atmosphere was tense.

The armistice existing during these conferences was extended from midnight until 2 pm June 3, 1918.

On June 3rd at 10 am, Kadlets called on Emerson at Marinsk. After lengthy discussions, Kadlets left alternate proposals for procedure of the Czecho-Slovaks in starting eastward toward Vladivostok.

On June 4th an agreement was finally signed by the Soviet representatives, Litkin, Weinbaum and others and by Kadlets for the Czecho-Slovaks. The signatures of Colonel Emerson, American Vice Consul Edward B. Thomas and U.S. Military Attache H.H. Slaughter also appeared on the document.

The following terms were accepted by all parties with the intermediation of the American Mission under Emerson:

1. A six-day armistice established on the front between Marinsk and Irkutsk to expire June 10, 1918, at 1 o’clock at night.
2. For the concluding of a general peace, a peace delegation to depart to the west of Marinsk. This to consist of members of the Russian Soviet Federative Republic and the American Mission under Citizen Colonel Emerson.
3. The present treaty to go into effect from the moment of the signing by both parties and intermediators.
4. The text of the present treaty to be handed to all representatives of the contracting parties and the intermediators.

The departure to inspect the western areas in accord with Item 2 of the agreement resulted in the arrival of Colonel Emerson’s train in Novo-Nikolayesvk. His train proceeded westward that day and travelled for 110 miles before arriving at Kargat on June 7th.
On June 8th Consul Harris arrived with his party. He held separate conferences with the Czecho-Slovaks and members of the Soviet group. He explained fully that the American mission had been interested in getting the two parties together but that the mission had nothing to do with factional strife between Bolsheviks and the counterrevolutionary movement. He reiterated to Kadlets that the President of the United States had only one thought in mind in sending railroad men to Siberia and that was to keep the Trans-Siberian Railroad open for traffic. He explained that he himself was only an impartial observer and could report only the changing conditions in Russia to his own government.
Consul Harris then requested Kadlets to give all assistance possible to Colonel Emerson. Emerson was directed by the United States Government to go to Vologda and to assist Harris to return to Irkutsk with the Soviet Commissioners, whose safety had to be assured.
Kadlets promised to assist in all ways. Harris returned to Irkutsk, and Emerson went on westward on the Czecho-Slovak train, arriving at Omsk to learn that White Guards and Czecho-Slovaks had taken that city on June 7, 1918.
No communication between Omsk and Vologda or Moscow was possible. Emerson’s train therefore left for Chelyabinsk, arriving on June 13th. Here were found many Czecho-Slovaks and the French Attache, Major Quinet. Again there were unfavorable reports. It was impossible to proceed northward through Ekaterinburg. Reports showed tracks had been torn up and indicated that possible fighting existed along this line. Since the run to Ekaterinburg on the east side of the Urals could not proceed, it was decided to go through Zlatoust and northward to the Perm Railway by way of the New Western Ural Line.
On June 16, 1918 Emerson started for the Czecho-Slovak western front at Miass, 40 miles east of Zlatoust. As the Czecho-Slovaks deemed it advisable that no Russians pass through their lines, Mr. Lebanoff, the Russian representative, was taken off the train and returned to Omsk.
On June 18th Emerson telegraphed ahead to the Russian commander at Zlatoust, in the Ural Pass. He stated that the United States Railroad Mission requested permission to pass en route to Vologda for a railroad conference with the United States Ambassador there.
The reply arrived on June 22nd. Conditions for passing were:
1. No man to be on the U.S. Mission train who has to return to Miass.
2. No correspondence to be carried on during the trip to Vologda.
3. A representative of the Soviet Government will accompany the mission to Vlogda.
(Signed) Tolmachov
For the Commander
Commissaire of the
Zlatoust Front

A request to Tolmachov for safe passage resulted in an affirmative reply with mention of considerable difficulties. Actually it was no guarantee at all, and American Consul Alfred R. Thomson decided to wait for a reply to a telegram sent to American Ambassador Francis at Vologda.
Major Guinet of the French Mission suggested the Americans return to Omsk, making that point their headquarters until the awaited communication was received. Colonel Emerson followed this advise and was back in Omsk on June 26th.
Guinet issued a statement through the Czecho-Slovak and Russian papers stating that the Americans and the Allies were intervening in Russia at the end of June and that the French were with the Czecho-Slovaks in their movement.
This is amazing when one realizes that the Allies, including the United States, had not decided to intervene at this point!
At a later date, July 24th, Major Slaughter reported: “The French Consul Sumara stated to new government French alone responsible action Czechs against Bolsheviks and Siberian Provisional Government therefore owed existence to the French.”
It is clear, therefore, that whether this is the whole truth or not, the French were by no means backward in view of their portion of responsibility for the Czecho-Slovak movement. No time was lost by the Czecho-Slovaks. Vladivostok was seized on June 29, 1918 by Czecho-Slovak forces under the command of General Dietrichs on the ground that they must prevent the shipment of munitions west to the Bolsheviks and to armed prisoner units at Irkutsk.
The Czecho-Slovaks immediately started a general plan of larger operations. Three groups of Czecho-Slovak troops were formed. One, under Captain Cecek, was to establish itself on the lower Volga. The second, under Captain Syrovy, was to take Ekaterinburg and proceed towards Vologda. The third under Gaida, was to proceed east along the Trans-Siberian Railway and establish permanent and secure communications with Vladivostok. These three men were destined to make history in the course of the months to come.
Years later, in July 1930, Samuel I. Johnson, who headed the International Military Police in Vladivostok during the Intervention, received this letter from his friend, Emil Sielc. This letter, written in poor English, was from the heart of the man who loved Captain Cecek so well that he wanted to share his grief with another man who obviously respected and loved him too.

Dear Colonel:
With the same mail I send you the Prager Presse where is written down the last memories of our friend, General Cecek, who is gone from us! It is one higher Might as our understanding and who is stronger as our Siberian forces.
My Dear General sleep us well as you must. Your sleeping is not without rule, your body is gone but your Highest Forces are till now just in place where He need. I deft you for so many, us like everyone who is coming – – done his work and gone from the place where never come back. And we ask ourselves: why? Why cannot live a young man longer as he like?…Here is without our understanding and must tell things which I couldn’t even [for] get. Let us now after your died remember in this place. I told after your “died” what is not just, but let be, because that word is more used in our understand.

I know that you see my misering. Thanks, Your Emil
Yes & nobody nows where be bands are [headed?]/

Always your old soldier
of the Czecho-Sl-Headquarter
(signed) Emil Sielc

Captain Jan Syrovy was a bulky one-eyed man who later became a general in the Czecho-Slovak army. Well cast in the role of Czecho-Slovak strong man, he was considered able and resolute. He helped lead 70,000 Czecho-Slovak soldiers across Russia to Vladivostok after the Collapse of the Great War on the Eastern Front when Russia left the Allied ranks. Although some dispatches described him as pro-Russian, American officers who knew hem intimately say Syrovy was no Bolsheviks. He and his men clashed many times with Red detachments during their retreat to Vladivostok, but they fought anti-Bolsheviks as well. Major General William S. Graves was to say later that the Czecho-Slovaks as represented in Siberia believed in a parliamentary government as opposed to an absolutist form.
Perhaps the most famous of the three was Rudolf Gaida, a young man of twenty-eight. At the time General Graves met him, in September, 1918, Gaida was flushed with his success at Irkutsk. Graves was accompanied by General Paris, the senior French officer in the Far East, and other French officers when they met. Paris had ambitions to form an Eastern Front at this time.
In the months to come Gaida was called a hero by some, a scoundrel by others, and a political aspirant by still more. Some veterans, cognizant of the various opinions, felt that Gaida did not do the best by his own troops when he permitted so many to be executed (later in 1919). Others thought that perhaps because he was sold out and knew that his men would be executed anyway, he simply saved his own life. In the beginning, however, he was the great hero with hopes for a brilliant future for himself and his cause. This controversial figure, who was later under investigation for fraudulently assuming the rank of captain, was personally thought a great patriot by some, although even they felt he had visions of being the head of a political government.
Although the Russians outwardly expressed gratitude to the Czecho-Slovaks, they always managed to convey the idea that this feeling might be reversed. The fault of these Russian leaders to split into cliques and groups and to start intrigues enabled the Czecho-Slovaks to maintain their position of strength. The Czecho-Slovaks apparently made little of the general confusion that the Russians would have faith in them as trustworthy, democratic leaders.
The Trans-Siberian Railroad was guarded by a police organization under the command of Czecho-Slovak Lieutenant Colonel Cajicock. The gold (coin and Bullion) and platinum which the Czecho-Slovaks had captured was turned over the new Siberian Government which was encouraged to raise a new army.
It was reported to Major Slaughter that the newly organized infantry of the Siberian Government refused to stand under fire and that the Czecho-Slovaks had met this condition by placing machine guns at the rear of these Russian troops. This brought good results. But there was not profound spirit or determination to win nor any kind of morale in either the civilian or military Russian population. This seemed strange as thousands, perhaps as many as 40,000, had suffered death, torture and humiliation at the hands of the Bolsheviks. The new army was expected to retaliate; rather it operated placidly, indicating a lack of spirit.
Contact between Vladivostok and the Urals was of great importance. Gaida’s group was assigned to maintain this contact. The campaign eastward from Omsk had several possibilities. Besides the main movement directly along the line of the railroad, complementary operations could be undertaken from Manchuria. In this case, the Cossack forces under Semenov would connect with the Czecho-Slovaks in the vicinity of Verknedinsk of Chita, and from Vladivostok, north to Khabarovsk. Czecho-Slovak forces were available for the first and third movements of this campaign which was finally completed in the late summer with the assistance of the Japanese, Allied and American troops between Chita and Khabarovsk.
The movements were considered as follows:
1. Gaida’s operations, Baikalia.
2. The Ussuri campaign, Vladivostok to Khabarovsk.
3. The Amur campaign, Chita to Khabarovsk.
The operations Baikalia, which are to be considered here, took place in July, 1918 and involved the Emerson party.
Although there were a number of obstacles en route, the Czecho-Slovak forces approached Irkutsk during the second week. Meanwhile Majors Guinet and Slaughter had arrived in Omsk. Slaughter again joined the RRSC group and Guinet attended to business with the Czecho-Slovaks. The RRSC was kept informed about the Czecho-Slovak movement including their connecting at Samara on their trek toward Irkutsk. The Czecho-Slovaks had one aeroplane in service and the RRSC men inspected it. They also inspected a prison camp where some 40,000 prisoners, mostly Austro-Hungarians, were interned.
On July 6th Consul Ray from Novo-Nikolayevsk called on Emerson and party. He was making Omsk his headquarters. Nothing was heard from Irkutsk until July 13th when Gaida sent word that he was in the act of occupying the city after marching two days from a spot where they Czecho-Slovak trains had been left. There the Czecho-Slovaks had formed a northern and southern group, only to find upon arrival that the enemy had abandoned Irkutsk.
The southern force spent about six days under trying conditions attempting to anticipate the retreating Bolsheviks by reaching the tunnels at the southern end of Lake Baikal. They did not arrive near Tunnel No. 39 (the easternmost of the forty-one tunnels i this territory) in time to prevent destruction of its eastern end.
There is some belief that the Bolsheviks had both the time and means to mine the tunnels but refrained because they then felt no great animosity toward the Czecho-Slovaks. Nevertheless, the Czecho-Slovaks not only occupied Irkutsh but took up the work of consolidating their control of communications across Lake Baikal and around its southern end.
According to an official report. the RRSC repaired two bridges on July 26th and trains were able to move. On the 27th the RRSC cars were sent out and work was begun, but progress was slow due to inadequate machinery.
The piles had to be driven manually to get the proper bridge supports. Four hundred box cars were pushed by had over the bridge on July 27th. The eastbound track was completed by Sunday, July 28, 1918. Engine No. 518 was sent over the bridge at 1 pm. Skullduggery was discovered and the Czecho-Slovaks ordered all prisoners of war returned to camp. The Swedish Red Cross was ordered to leave the area within twelve hours. Throughout the history of this campaign, Swedish Red Cross collaboration with the Bolsheviks and the Germans was reported. In this case, the Czecho-Slovaks discovered that passports had been given to German officers.
July was nearly over. On the evening of the 30th the RRSC started out again. On the 31st the officers conferred with Kadlets and inspected Tunnel No. 39.
“We must have the tunnel cleared for traffic,” the RRSC men were told. Mr. Koslofsky, the engineer in charge of the Czecho-Slovak engineering forces on the front, conferred with the corpsmen. Two sections of about fifty feet from the east end of the tunnel had been destroyed by high explosives and the entire overburden, about fifty feet from the arch, was sliding and blocking the passage. A small force of workmen had been working under the aegis of the RRSC but were making little progress. It was also found that Tunnel No. 16 was loaded with 1450 poods of high explosives. It was not known what amount had been used in the destruction of the east end of Tunnel No. 39.
“We need help or this work will never get done,” one of the RRSC men remarked. His advice was heeded, and a wire sent off to Irkutsk to send three hundred prisoners of war to help with the work. They continually cleared out the rock which frequently had to be blasted. About 4,000 cubic yards were removed.
A small force was sent east from the tunnel to afford the laborers protection, and a 3-inch field piece was placed on the mountain.
Continual artillery action to the east of the tunnel took place August 2nd. The Czecho-Slovak and White Russian forces continued their movements over the hill.
Gaida passed the tunnel on his way to the front on the 2nd. On August 4th Kadlets moved his forces to the front. “The enemy is getting more bold each day owing to the delay in getting the tunnel ready,” Kadlets told the RRSC men. Gaida advised them by wire that it was most important that the tunnel be completed immediately so that armored trains could get through the hill no later than August 6th. Up to that time all field pieces and provisions had to go over the mountain and the men had to march to the front.
To confuse the enemy, Gaida smartly sent an “urgent” message which was a hoax. He made sure that it would be captured. By the message the Bolsheviks believed that Gaida was anxious to have the tunnel open. Fooled completely by the message, the Bolsheviks rushed to close in on troops defending the east end of the tunnel, attempting to crush them. Meanwhile, Kadlets’ Seventh Regiment of Czecho-Slovaks had affected a flank movement, descended the hills in the rear of the Bolsheviks, captured seven locomotives, an armored train and some equipment and inflicted heavy losses on the Bolshevik troops.
After that the Czecho-Slovaks and the White Russians were able to make considerable progress in chasing the enemy eastward. By August 10th, with the assistance of Colonel Emerson’s forces, the tunnel was cleared so that eight echelons managed to march through. However, a slide of rock and earth blocked the movement. It was not until the 17th that traffic was cleared, although twelve echelons had been pushed through on the 12th, and the Czecho-Slovak front was thus substantially strengthened.
Fighting increased, but the Czecho-Slovaks again succeeded in inflicting serious losses on the Bolsheviks and capturing another armored train. The enemy tried to run a carload of explosives into a Czecho-Slovak armored train. Rising to the occasion, the Czecho-Slovaks found a flat car that could be released to intercept the explosive-laden car. Thus they suffered no damage.
It had been a tense moment and could have been disastrous but for that quick action. There was much cheering when the flat car caught the explosives. There was further jubilation when the Czecho-Slovaks again succeeded in outflanking the Bolsheviks. It was clear that this flanking movement was the total strategy and tactics in the Czecho-Slovak operations.
Major Slaughter witnessed the operations and reported the following: “The method of fighting adopted in the effort to capture the Red Army force was substantially as follows: Flanking groups were sent out to get around the Red Army flanks, the echelons merely moving up within artillery range of the Red Army. As soon as the flanking roups reached a flank or rear, an echelon was moved forward and opened fire with artillery on the Red lines. As they began their retreat, the flanking groups were expected to catch them in retreat and either capture or destroy their forces. It may be said that this method was followed all throughout the Czecho campaign against the Bolsheviks with remarkable success. Apparently, the Bolsheviks had no flanking groups or patrols to warn them of the approach of the Czech, or if they had such groups they failed to give warning.”
Eastward along the railroad the Bolshevik forces were trapped. They had been surprised, thrown into a panic and lost all of their equipment and many men. Colonel Emerson arrived on August 18th, shortly after the engagement. He was gold of an incident which had just occurred which cast some light upon the “atrocities” shouldered upon the Bolsheviks.
Colonel Ushakoff, a White Russian whom the American party had met at Irkutsk, undertook a stratagem for which he paid dearly. He crossed Lake Baikal, landed on the eastern shore and informed the local Bolshevik commissioner that he himself was a Bolshevik and had eighty more men with him. “If explosives, supplies, and ammunition can be brought to me promptly from Verkhne-Udinsk,” he said, “I will re-cross the Lake and trap those Czecho-Slovaks by blowing up the tunnels.” He had a wire sent to himself at Verkhne-Udinsk to alert his allies to his plan. Thus, action was taken in accordance with his request. Later his men cut he track causing derailments and he himself went back along the tracks toward Verst #339 and there disappeared.
On the morning of August 19th an Austro-Hungarian prisoner informed his Czecho-Slovak captors where Colonel Ushakoff’s body could be found. When the body was located, there was consternation among White Russian and Czecho-Slovak sectors. The Colonel’s body had been badly mutilated.
The following morning the RRSC engineering forces started to clear both main lines and completed the work that day.
On August 21st the Selenga River Bridge was crossed. It had not been damaged by the Bolsheviks as they were closely pressed eastward by the Czecho-Slovaks.
This was most unusual as in their movements eastward the Bolsheviks had systematically destroyed bridges, tracks and installations along the railroad. The American engineers were sickened by the sights they saw as they progressed along the railroad. Bridges had been blown up everywhere. The Czecho-Slovaks had captured sixty-one enemy echelons and forty-one fieldpieces, effectively preventing any further attempt by the opposing forces to entrench against them. After that, all the Bolshevik efforts were directed toward making a retreat and in blocking and retarding the advance of the Czecho-Slovaks and White Russians. Utter chaos resulted. Bridges were not only blown up, but surplus equipment was derailed.
The American party of Colonel Emerson which had travelled closely behind the Czecho-Slovaks arrived at a point about five miles west of Verkhne-Udinsk on August 21st. There they found an unusual prison camp containing 6,000 Austro-Hungarian and German prisoners who had not joined the Bolshevik forces but who were peacefully guarding themselves: “The prisoners were well cared for,” Emerson said, “and were well clothed and even had their own means of entertainment.”
The Bolsheviks were improving with practice. At the east end of Verkhne-Udinsk considerable damage was done to the bridge and other structures. The engineers found samples of the explosives used and learned it was known in Russian as “toll.” The English name was thought to be peroxolin. It consisted of gun cotton soaked with nitro-glycerine.
The American engineers were dismayed at the devastation 25 miles east of Verkhne-Udinsk. A water station had been badly damaged and a passenger coach burned. The pumping engine in the station had been destroyed by explosives. Continuing on, it was found that the next station had been set on fire, and five miles east of that a bridge had been damaged.
So it went, mile after mile, with on interruption after another. Wrecked cars were found. Tracks were badly torn up. The tracks, of course, had to be repaired. A thousand or so war prisoners were encountered. They claimed to be invalids returning home, but their appearance belied this claim.
Progress was slow. The Americans made their way on to Chita, arriving August 28th. They proceeded to Culvert, Verst 1074, arriving at 10:40 am, where they learned that the enemy was entrenched just ahead of Verst 1055. Emerson described it thus: “First Tomsk Regiment Colonel Shuman was in charge of our support, and messenger engine was sent back to find and inform him of conditions ahead. Cossacks in neighborhood came around our train asking for arms and about two hundred men were sent ahead, on foot and mounted, to try to cut off retreating forces. At 5 pm got out Brunivik across this bridge and our engineering train got started at 6. Found no further damage to track as far as Karenskaya. On our way in, the Cossacks and peasants climbed on the train, all anxious to see us occupy Karenskaya. We did this just a dark. The people met us with cheers. A peace delegation informed us that the Czech’s were welcome.”
Thus by August 27th the way was cleared to Chita where Semenov’s Cossacks met the train.
Finally after a number of other stops, the RRSC party left Adrianovka at 4:20 am on August 31st.
The August journey was nearly over. As they travelled the Americans found deserted trains. Finally at 8 pm on that last day of August, a Czecho-Slovak scout from the Third Regiment from Vladivostok arrived to say the line was now clear into Vladivostok.
There were many cheers and much shouting as the news reached the men. The engineers were on the way and realized that by the time they returned to Vladivostok, they would be able to meet again with other members of the RRSC, as well as with doughboys from home. A spirit of anticipation prevailed.
September morn came on a Sunday. Colonel Emerson sent wires to Colonel Stevens and to Admiral Knight to alert them of his whereabouts. During the night Colonels Gaida and Kadlets arrived, and late that night Gaida learned of his promotion to general.
“We are most anxious to get to Vladivostok as soon as possible,” Emerson told Gaida. A special train was then sent eastward. The trip was a slow one, but the men were glad to be heading back. Even at this early date, a number of Japanese officers and men were noted to be accompanying Semenov.
At Verst 1395, the special was put on a siding as a train was approaching from the east. This was an American mission. The Czecho-Slovak officer flagged the train. A great hurrah was heard when it was found to contain a party of American Red Cross officer including Mr. Teusler, Bishop Tucker and others. After a visit the RRSC proceeded to Harbin where they arrived September 5th. A railway strike prevented them from getting out until regular train No. 4 left on September 7th.
Emerson finally arrived at Vladivostok September 8, 1918 to find that the men he had left at Nagasaki were now in Vladivostok.
At the conclusion of his report of the trip Emerson remarked: “We do not hesitate to compliment the Czechnish-Slovak [sic] troops and their officers on their bravery, good behavior and general manly cleanliness. During our entire travels we did not see any sign of misconduct, nor a drunken nor disorderly man among them. It has been a pleasure to be associated with so clean and businesslike a class of patriotic soldiers.
“General Gaida and Colonel Kadlets with whom we have been most intimate are deserving of the highest consideration in their general-ship. They accomplished what at many times looked like impossibilities and always succeeded in gaining the confidence of the yet unorganized Russian people to the extent of having Gaida’s authority recognized and supreme. To the Russian officers of superior military rank who recognized the Czechish [sic] superiority in both organization and training and to many Russian officers who fought as privates, we recommend the highest admiration.”
Colonel Emerson’s attempt to reach Vologda was in the nature of an unfulfilled mission. Although his report is that of an accomplished engineer, it is evident that only a man dedicated to his duty beyond reasonable demands would have persisted in the mission even as far as Miass. The ambiguous status in which he was placed by the government of the United States did not hamper his determined approach. His men of the Railway Corps served loyally for long periods without pay.
A study of a contemporary map and familiarity with the chaotic conditions in Siberia at that time leaves no doubt that the Colonel deserves recognition far in excess of that given to lesser but more voluble men of that confusing time. There has been no evidence that the Colonel ever exhibited ill will or petulance in spite of the most trying conferences with soldiers and politicians of all factions who never trusted each other and whose doubtful purposes often caused delays.
Surely the sincerity of Colonel Emerson shines brightly through the dark confusion that constantly beset this most steadfast American. While governments have proved forgetful and unkind, the American nation should remember with pride Colonel Emerson and his valiant men of the Russian Railway Service Corps and should add the exploits of these forgotten men to the great heritage to which they rightfully belong.

Chapter IX

Back in Japan

During the long hot summer days the Emerson party was struggling to establish peace between the warring factions in Siberia and struggling valiantly to keep the railroads open along the route to Vladivostok. The men who had been left behind in Japan worried and wondered. They felt like outcasts.
They went about their usually boring routine in Nagasaki as April faded into May and May into June. During May the RRSC baseball team played against American and English players in Tokyo for the benefit of the Red Cross. On May 26th Turner wrote that they were dazzled by a huge banquet, “the largest ever held in Tokyo, with 53 present; all Americans except one.”
Boasting of their baseball success in Japan, the men told how they had won a game admits a blaze of glory. One man said the paper reported that it was “the fastest and best game the people had seen in years.”
During June the men dreamed of the trip they had had, wrote letters and practiced endless games of baseball to ready themselves for another baseball trip scheduled for the beginning of July. That trip, to Yokohama, will never be forgotten by the men who were fortunate enough to go.
The men arrived there at 7:30 pm, July 3, 1918, and were quartered in the United States Hotel. They were ready for the game the next day. Proceeds were to go to the British and French Red Cross.
Incentive to winning was spurred by the president of the American Association who announced that he would present each member of the winning team with a gold watch fob.
In later years, the men were to say that one of the greatest treats of all was noting how our Fourth of July was celebrated in a foreign country. They were stunned by the extent of the celebration. All American business houses were closed for the entire day, and other places were closed at noon.
The day was perfect. Wherever the men went they were hailed and cheered. A goodly crowd assembled for the game much in advance of “play ball!”
The Americans were told of a great banquet to be held in the evening, but not in their wildest dreams did they imagine the extent of that and other affairs.
One might wonder if any Fourth of July, even in the United States in those days of flag-waving and patriotism, could have surpassed the Fourth in Yokohama in 1918.
Nearly three hundred gathered to celebrate at the invitation of Roland Morris, the American Ambassador. His invitation was a general one that was printed in all the papers stating that he and Mrs. Morris would be at the United States’ Embassy from three to six o’clock to receive all Americans. He mentioned that children were especially invited.
The day was clear and windy. The reception was in a beautiful sheltered garden. Many of the ladies carried colorful parasols. Ambassador and Mrs. Morris were said to be ideal hosts, and their aides, men and women attached to the Embassy, did a masterful job in introducing everyone and making each visitor feel at home.
Forty-five children were present. They were gaily dressed in white with emblematic red, white and blue in some form, either sash or knotted hair ribbon, or badge or cap band. They were under the able direction of a Miss Scheraschewsky and the Reverend T.E.D. Walser. The children marched, performed little plays and played games.
Mrs. Morris was stunning in a silk mull in lemon color, bordered with filet lace, and a broad hat of black tulle. Someone had brought her a basket of orchids tied with our national colors.
Many prominent people were in attendance. Speeches were given by the Ambassador and by a Dr. Clay MacCauley.
Against the trees and shrubs on one side of the lawn were stretched huge American flags. Just in front were long picnic tables adorned with pink gladioli and laden with sumptuous refreshments.
An Englishman toasted Old Glory, and the Imperial Navy Band played may airs beginning with The Washington Post March and ending with the Star-Spangled Banner.
The grounds were gaily decorated with flags. A band, clad in red, played happily. The RRSC men enjoyed the pretty Yokohama girls who encouraged them with smiles and cheers.
At the baseball game, the American Consul General, the Honorable G.H. Scidmere, pitched the first ball. Once the game was over, Turner wrote home: “We have our watch fobs as remembrances, with engraving on the gold baseball. Sure think a lot of mine. We won 6 to 3.”
At eight o’clock the RRSC men were whisked to the Grand Hotel and taken to the new ballroom. There were nearly five hundred guest in a scene of great brilliance. Later about six hundred attended the dance. The dining room and the verandah which opened from it were decorated with flags, potted plants and massed flowers.
The menu-souvenir was “a thing of beauty” with Miss Liberty in colors decorating the cover. The menu red:

Cocktail de Crevetts
Salted Almonds Olives Radishes
Chicken Gumbo Clear Green Turtle Cognac
Hakone Trout Tout Paris Sandabs Saute Meuniere
Quail Saute a la Chasseur Terrapin a la Maryland
Filet Mignon Bearnaise
Frogs Legs Michele Braised Sweetbread Lucullus
Sorbet Palermatain
Young Turkey Chestnut Dressing and Cranberry Sauce
Gossling Stuffed with Apples Prime Ribs of Beef au Jus
Suckling Pig with Compote of Prunes
Fresh Asparagus, Butter Sauce New String Beans
Corn on the Cob New Garden Peas Spinach with Egg
Roast Potatoes Sweet Potatoes Southern Style Boiled Potatoes
Tomatoes Stuffed with Cucumber
Fresh Peach Ice Cream Walnut Tart
Mince Pie
Plum Pudding, Hard and Brandy Sauce Water Melon
Assorted Fruits
Demitasse

The musical program consisted of renditions and dancing. The full program was as follows:

Part I
1. March The Stars and Stripes Forever J. Sousa
2. Gavotte from Lysistrata P. Lincke
3. Opera Selection La Traviata G. Verdi
4. Valse Violets E. Waldteufel
5. Ghost Dance C. Salisburg
6. No. 8 Unfinished B Min. Symphony F. Schubert

Part II
Dancing from 9:15 pm
1, One Step 5. One Step 9. One Step
2. Waltz 6. Waltz 10. Waltz
3. One Step 7. Fox Trot 11. Extra
4. Fox Trot 8. One Step 12. Extra

The back of the program stated that this was a complimentary dinner “to our baseball guests The American Railway Engineers” tendered by the Yokohama Athletic and Country Club Baseball Team.

The guest listed were: Major J. Collins Gravis, Lieutentants O.T. Alexander, F.S. Barlow, D.F. Hutchins, T.J. Kane, M.H. Klugh, T.F. Phelan, Charles Shaft, P.E. Turner, A. Wildhaus, R.C. Wells, J.L. Wilson and Messrs. W.W. Baer, T.C. Blue, George Colton, Jr., J.A. Eaton, H.D. Ford, J.A. Graham, E. Hjertberg, C.P. Hubbard, F.A. Simon, T.L. Turner and R.B. Vaughn and also L. Wagner, U.S.N.

Each table at the gala affair was adorned with a bowl of beautiful blossoms with the American flag and the Rising Sun standing among them. At each place, in lieu of a boutonniere, were tiny Japanese and American emblems in silk.

Mr. Scidmere proposed the health of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan and followed with a toast to President Wilson of the United States. After the first toast, the playing to the Kimigayo followed.

Then the lights were extinguished. The second toast was made as an American shield, detailed in red, white and blue electric lights, “sprang out of the darkness: on the east wall with startling effect. Just beneath it appeared a portrait of President Woodrow Wilson. There was complete silence. Then the band played The Star-Spangled Banner while all the guest stood motionless.
The handsome new ballroom of the Grand Hotel was attractive in white and gold. The walls were decorated simply with large Japanese and American flags.

Dancing continued until half-past-one on a floor that was said to be “springy and well waxed.” The supplemented orchestra furnished excellent music.

There are no reports from any of the men to show how our Fourth of July was celebrated in Nagasaki, but Peter Copeland wrote that there were not too many corpsmen in the city.

As early as May the ranks of the RRSC had dwindled. Some men had fallen ill and returned to the United States. Others had accompanied Emerson to Siberia, and a large unit had been sent to Harbin to work in an advisory capacity for the Chinese Eastern Railway. Then there were those who were having a grand time in Yokohama. Less than one hundred men were in Nagasaki.

The men who had stayed in Nagasaki had become part of the community, and their presence was welcome. Shopkeepers began to lower their prices for the men. Copeland noted there were six classes of prices in the city: one for transients; a second for tourists; a third and fourth for corpsmen; and a fifth and a sixth for the natives.

The YMCA director’s wife is reported to have said she had never seen soldiers behave like gentlemen until the corpsmen arrived.

Restlessness prevailed among those who remained. Then word trickled back that the Czecho-Slovaks had overthrown the Bolshevik control in Vladivostok and taken the city. The situation looked more and more promising. On July 18th Colonel Stevens ordered the remaining RRSC men to Vladivostok.

At that time Turner and some of the men who had been in Yokohama were on a promised vacation to the resort town of Unzen. On the 22nd they arrived back in Nagasaki. Turner wrote home, “Unable to get any definite hope but we are now required to stay close to the hotels as we may receive orders to leave any minute.”

On August 6th Stevens gave the men a powerful lecture about the work that lay ahead. Vacation time was over. Most of them were glad to be going somewhere, to be doing something. They were lectured on conduct. On the 7th Turner wrote home that he was “leaving for parts unknown but mail addressed to me c/o American Consul and the RRSC, Vladivostok, Siberia will be forwarded to me wherever I am.”

It was on the 7th that the SIMBIRSK, a Russian merchant ship, left Nagasaki with the rest of the RRSC men. They were supposed to leave at 4 pm, but the partings were prolonged as the boat was late in arriving from Shanghai. The men did not board until 6 pm and left about 8:30 that night.

Bands had been playing all afternoon. There were many parties and many tears when the men went aboard. The barges carried the bands alongside the boat and music played on.
The townsfolk had gathered at the pier to wave sayonara. Most of the local ladies were seen brushing away tears.

There was a maze of serpentine paper everywhere. Each strip was held at one end by a corpsman and at the other end by his Japanese sweety. Kelly said “There was Lotty and Lilly and of course all the others. I held one serpentine strip with a girl at the far end and mine seemed to be the first one to break.”

It was a great farewell, and the men, weary from the week of goodbyes and social events, settled down for what they hoped would be a couple of days of good rest. But it did not turn out that way.

That night the seas became so rough that most of the men were forced to stay up all night. “Good old American songs” were played by the band in the music room. Hearing the songs helped some men as the boat rolled and swayed.

It was more than a storm that faced the men who had waited so long to get back to Vladivostok. It was a forty-mile-an-hour typhoon, and many wondered if they would ever see shore again. Some thought they might be paying for their long vacation. The old tub would first stand on one end and then on the other. The ship was so crowded that the passengers were sleeping in any corner they could find. The food was horrible, and the piercing screams of women and children did not help. Chinese, Japanese, Russians and Americans were aboard along with the corpsmen. Some prayed openly, others cursed and others cried.

Once the boat listed sideways so that the low deck was awash. Nearly everyone tried to get fresh air. Most were sick. A few found they were comfortable if they could keep breathing the outside air. Once inside, the vomiting and the dysentery of others was so vile that a stench permeated everything and sickness returned.

Kelly reported that the hero of the SIMBIRSK was Colonel Lantry. “He wouldn’t admit it,” said Kelly, “but he was as sick as a dog yet showed up at every meal and went through the motions. I did sympathize with the old man trying to set an example. And speaking of heroes reminds me that Frank Vickers and King Kelly won a D.S.C. or a Sabcebo or something. The ship was dipping end wise and sideways into the sea hurling tons of ocean across the crowded decks. A Russian lady and her six-year old son were in an exposed spot and were terrified. Vickers took the boy and King Kelly took the slender lady under their arms like bags of grain and climbed the tilting deck to a salon.”

Writing home on August 8th, Turner told about the severe typhoon “which lasted for forty hours.” He said it had caught them about four hours after leaving Nagasaki. “They called it a mild storm,” he wrote, “but believe me it was plenty bad enough to suit us. About midnight it came in our porthole and I was the unfortunate one in our cabin as I was trying to sleep on a settee just under it. Sure got soaked as it put about three inches of water on the floor. I finished my night on the bench in the dining room.”

The storm was at its worst at 10 am as some of the bolts on the propeller shaft sheared and the “ole tub” drifted about at will. “When the engines got going okay again,” Turner wrote, “they kept headed against the storm but when the bolts broke it did not go so well as the ship went sideways to storm and got down in between two large swells. When we were on top of the waves and they went down you would think sure she was going over.”

Turner also said that he and his friend Alexander were on the top deck when this happened and were so mixed up with benches and chairs sliding all over the place that they could not get hold of anything. When the engines started again and they headed against the wind, they were relieved. The storm was bad all day and all night, and more than one big strong man was weak with fear.

In another letter Turner wrote that they could see the rocky Korean coast about two miles to the west, “and I assure you we did not see a very bright future being dashed against those rocks if the engine did not come to life…some of the bolts broke in the propeller shaft when the ship was lunging so. A propeller was jumping in and out of the water all during the storm.”

On the deck O.T. Alexander and Skipper Jones had “fixed themselves up very comfy” in nests on the forward deck. “They wore smug smiles at having grabbed the most desirable spots but when the waves began to misbehave, O.T. and Skipper found themselves foremost to the storm.”

Kelly also recalled the incident Turner mentioned in his letter but was more graphic in his description. “Twaddle and Tiny Turner [nickname for tall Turner] nestled in a second cabin. They both agreed that this was the life and beat the bullpen all hollow. But they left a porthole open for a bit of pure air. Turner took the stream down the back of his shirt and Twaddle finished out the voyage bunked on the piano in the music salon.”

In spite of all the rough seas there was a birthday celebration for Kelly on August 9th. Fergus and Tiny and Kelly went to a party given by Mrs. Nielson in her stateroom which she occupied with a Mrs. Horounjeff. They had “a jug of Canadian Club and eats,” and Kelly said it took real sailors to throw a party on the SIMBIRSK. “I was proud of Flanagan, Turner and myself,” he said.

Finally, after most of the passengers though the transport would crash and their lives would end out there on the rocky Korean coast, the sea suddenly calmed and everyone relaxed. Some people were seen for the first time. Anticipation and excitement replaced fear, and yet many seemed “to have veneer of war weary sophistication.”

The inevitable tea, always served by the Russians, began to be served again. Brown pretzels were passed around.

On August 10th the RRSC men caught sight of the city they had seen so briefly eight months before. Eight months, it hardly seemed possible. They pulled into the harbor at 7:30 pm but were not permitted to land until the next day.

They were told that inspectors had to go through their baggage and make a record of their passports. After about an hour in quarantine, they went into the harbor itself and saw two Japanese cruisers and British and Chinese light warships.

The breakfast they were served on board the 11th was, according to Copeland, “State bread, stale boiled eggs and salty coffee; really bum. The sea water had gotten into the fresh water supply.”
Kelly said: “It was breakfast time on the SIMBIRSK. Flanagan, Porter Turner, King Kelly and a few others pulled up their chairs, discussed the typhoon…sympathized with those bothered with mal de mer. Fergus pulled over the bowlful of hard boiled eggs, cracked one open and said ‘I am not sick mind you it is just that I have decided only have black coffee this morning.’ ”

Finally the corpsmen again walked the streets of “Old Vladi”. They heard that the Trans-Siberian Railway was a long series of wrecked, demolished equipment from the Urals to Vladivostok. Debris still lay everywhere along the side of the track, and they heard that dozens of bridges had been blown up. As Colonel Emerson and party were not yet back in the city, the men did not know how much of what they heard was true and how much was false. There was a good deal of speculation.

After suppressing the Bolsheviks, some of the Czecho-Slovak engineers had been assigned to points along the railroad. This assignment was merely in an advisory capacity and was a temporary measure until some agreement could be reached by an executive council of the Allied Forces with regard to the proper method of reorganizing the road. Everyone realized that one of the most essential talks in Siberia, other than inaugurating a sound and stable government, was repairing the railroad. The railroad was desperately needed to make possible the flow of supplies. No transportation of supplies had entered the interior of the country since the Russian Civil War due to the complete demoralization of the railroad employees who had not been paid in months.

It seemed obvious to the Americans that Emerson and his party had been doing more than observing the situation, or they would not have been away for four months. All that the men could believe were rumors. They anxiously awaited the arrival of Colonel Emerson.

Meanwhile they were also eager to see what was going on in Vladivostok. The Americans, they heard, were on their way to Siberia, but as yet none had arrived in the city. The British were there, and the French and Japanese, and there were many American sailors and marines from the BROOKLYN, which was anchored in the harbor. They all chatted and listened and wondered.

The railway men had debarked on Sunday, August 11, 1918, and the stores were all closed. It was 9:30 am. The men were quartered in a schoolhouse and were told they were to eat out wherever they wished. It did not take them long to rush out for food as the restaurants were open. Turner wrote that they had lunch for seven rubles (about one dollar and fifty cents). Butter, he soon found out, was very scarce by meats seemed plentiful. “Everybody says the Russians are heavy eaters,” he wrote in a letter. “I believe it by the shape of the women; very fleshy and many men out of shape too.”

They were amazed to hear that the Bolsheviks had continued to plunder and that during their fight thousands of cars had been blown up and whole trains had been wrecked. “If they are in power now in Russia,” the men asked, “why do they continue to plunder and destroy that which may be of help to them.” “They are afraid of the Czechs and other factions which might take over,” was the usual answer.

It was obvious that the Americans could do nothing until the other corpsmen came back with Colonel Emerson. No one knew when that might be. Meanwhile, they thought that perhaps the doughboys would have something to add when they arrived. There was nothing to do but sit and wait. No work, no news they could rely on, nothing.

Turner and Alexander were lucky enough to find that some of their friends from Nagasaki were ready to receive them in Vladivostok. Turner told his parents, in a letter dated August 11th, that he was getting ready to take a walk to call on these friends.

“Several large Allied battleships are just in front of the town here,” he wrote, “and they have a tendency to keep peace here. Several hundred British landed last Tuesday and about 1,000 French came i a couple of days ago. Several hundred Japanese troops just landed today and marched up the main street a few minutes ago. But wait until the Americans land a few hundred as they seem to be the best friends of the Russians.”

He wrote about the rumors of the fighting going on “not so very far from here” and told of the 30,000 to 40,000 German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners who were armed and fighting the Czecho-Slovaks. He added, “But the Czechs seem to be the ruling power around here now.”
The men had a chance to really look the town over in the days that followed. They saw large brick buildings three and four stories high, and a city which seemed to have “lots of life” and to be filled with people who surprisingly enough seemed to have plenty of money.

“There is a nice bathing beach,” Turner wrote on the 14th. “It is only about ten minutes walk from our rooms. The YMCA have [sic] a good bath house and a spring board and bathing platforms there. The highest platform is about 30 feet night and I dove off of it and landed fine so it did not hurt a bit.” What he did not tell his parents in the letter was that the bathing beach was a favorite spot for the RRSC men as they liked to watch the Russians bathe. They went in nude and it was quite a sight. There was a joke which went the round saying the Red Cross offered the ladies bathing suits and the latter did not know what they were.

Turner was a lucky one, for he also went out yachting with Mr. Forsyth, his friend from Japan. Forsyth owned the largest yacht there, “a beauty with six berths and a kitchen; 45 foot long. Its name is ‘Minnetonka’ named after the lake in Minneapolis.”

While all this vacation continued for the corpsmen, the doughboys in the Philippines and in the States were getting ready to leave for Siberia. If fact some of them were already en route. When the Emerson party returned, life in Vladivostok might become as interesting as they had anticipated when they first arrived in that city so many months before.

Part Four
The 27th and 31st Infantry Regiments Prior to Landing
in Vladivostok, August and September 1918

Chapter X
The 27th and 31st Infantry Regiments
Prepare to Move from the Philippine Islands

Vladivostok was becoming a nerve center of war activities in the East. The BROOKLYN, with its sailors and marines, and the Russian Railway Service Corps had each been in Vladivostok before the dawn of 1918. By mid-1918, British, French and Japanese sailors and soldiers were in port. Yet, the American Expeditionary Forces had not yet arrived. In fact, few men in the Philippines or in California were aware of the diplomatic drama which was unfolding so far from the United States’ shores.

Nevertheless rumors, ever the lifeblood of military units, began to circulate around the camp grounds of the 27th and 31st Infantry Regiments stationed in the Philippine Islands. These rumors concerned possible moves to such unlikely places as the Holy Land, Japan or Siberia.
On July 27th, 1918, Alan Ferguson of Company B, 31st Infantry, wrote a letter to his parents. It read, in part: “There have been lots of rumors lately of one or both regiments going to Siberia, and when the SHERIDAN was held over here and the 27th was making such thorough operations it seemed likely that they were going, but most of the excitement died down when the SHERIDAN left without them.”

Although Ferguson was destined to stay in the Philippine Islands until September 7, 1918 when the WARREN made its second trip to Vladivostok, he was to be an important figure to his fellow soldiers. He later became the headquarters wrestling champion of the expedition.

His letter also mentioned the showing of war instruction motion pictures of trench warfare, obviously to prepare the men for the rigors of the Western Front. It seemed proof positive that France would be their goal and that the rumors were instigated by officials for security reasons. The 27th had been at key pitch for some time; then the 31st was spurred to activity.

Harry Rohrer, Company K of the 31st, never dreamed in his native Pennsylvania that he might one day go to Siberia. Yet there he was in the Philippines with strange rumors assailing his ears. Educated in Connecticut, Rohrer was unused to Philippine heat or to Siberian cold. Yet his sojourn proved to be a wonderful experience. He married a Polish girl in Vladivostok, brought her home and later raised a typical American family.

He recalled the day the men in the Philippines were told to prepare to fall out with full equipment, rations and canteens for an impending hike to “make them fit and hard for service.” They were told to do their best and were advised: “You are in the service of your government now for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There will be no rest until the enemy is subdued. So dig in and smile.”

What a line of bunk though the men, but they began to make bets as to who would get the most Heinies when they got to Europe. The hike began. The men were glad to have a goal. They were sick of sweating it out and waiting. They longed for action and for the chance to go to France “to lick old Kaiser Bill.” They cussed and growled but prepared admirably for the part they wanted to play in making the world “safe for democracy.”

As the hike wore on, heads drooped. The steaming heat and nagging dust made throats, as well as bodies, hot and dry. It seemed an eternity before the rest period came. When it did come, equipment was unslung to fee the men of extra weight and sweat was mopped in one great sweep. Most of the rest period was taken up with a combination of swearing and singing; many a man rolled a Dogie or Bull Fag or took a chew of Climax.

Hike followed hike. As the mens’ muscles strengthened, the packs seemed to lighten. Days ran into weeks as time was spent in maneuvering and working out field problems. There was target practice too, and unending discussions of methods of fighting on the Western Front. Some of the excitement died down as the men became annoyed at Uncle Sam for taking so long. He had already called the 8th and 13th Regiments to the States for war service. Those remaining were beginning to suspect permanent detention on the Islands.

They did not know that wheels had been grinding behind the scenes in Washington and that messages to Manila were the cause of the onslaught of the tough training period. No public announcement had been made, but our government had decided to send an armed force of a “certain, exact, number of men to Siberia.” This force was to consist of “two regiments of Infantry at war strength with a Staff Corps and certain special detachments.”

As early as July 11, 1918 Washington officials wired the Philippine Department requesting data as to the number of men available for foreign service, dates of availability and the amount of equipment. It may be surmised that this directive caused a considerable stir in the upper echelon in the Philippines.

Two days later, on July 13th, Washington was informed by cable that the 27th and 31st Infantry Regiments were fully equipped with arms, ammunition, machine guns and “equipment C” (complete except for O D woolen uniforms, overcoats and winter underclothing). These two regiments could be ready to move within forty-eight hours of receipt of orders. The strength for duty was given as follows:

27th Infantry – 48 officers and 1,346 men
31st Infantry – 43 officers and 1, 346 men
Total – 91 officers and 2, 692 men

Again, it may be surmised that the news of the rapidity with which these two regiments could be made ready must have put heart into the inquiring Washington officials. They were also told that the following other organizations in the Philippine Department would be ready to disembark within fifteen days after the first troops left: “One Field Hospital; one Company of Engineers; one Signal Battalion; a Regiment of Cavalry, less one squadron; artillery comprising 44 -3.2 inch pieces, 32 limbers, 9 caissons and ammunition, with a surplus of animals for batteries, but no train; a Field Artillery Regiment fresh from target practice and fully organized and equipped with 2.5 inch mountain guns in excellent condition.”

After the scurry of collecting all the facts and figures and getting the wires off to Washington, the Philippine officials sat back and waited. They speculated and avidly watched the newspapers for some sort of special announcement. They saw nothing.

Then on August 3rd the War Department cabled Colonel Henry D. Styer, Commander of the Philippine Department, to send via the first available United States army transports the following troops to Vladivostok, Siberia, for station:

The 27th and 31st Infantry Regiments
One Field Hospital
One Ambulance Company
Company D, 53rd Battalion (provided with equipment C
including clothing for winter service as far as practicable).

Apparently “as far as practicable” was an afterthought when the officials realized that there might not be winter clothing in the tropics by the time the men boarded the transports.
Styer was destined to be the first commander of the expedition. He arrived in Vladivostok more than two weeks before Commanding Major General William S. Graves set foot on Siberian soil. Styer had been born in Sellersville, Pennsylvania in 1862 and had graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1884. His long and vivid career included graduation from the Army War College in Washington in 1914. In Siberia, after the arrival of Graves, he commanded the American Zone of Advance in Eastern Siberia. He was honorably discharged later as a brigadier general of the National Army.

Styer studied his orders. They included obtaining necessary subsistence and other supplies from stores in Manila until service could be established directly from San Francisco to Vladivostok. Orders followed orders. The wireless clerks were kept busy.

The medical department received its instructions and was advised that the 27th and 31st Infantry Regiments would move their own sanitary personnel, plus an ambulance company, field hospital #4 and other units.

At this time the Provisional Intelligence Section on duty in the Philippines comprised three officers, two enlisted clerks, fifty interpreters, a map section of engineers (one officer and twenty-two men) and a signal corps detachment of twenty men. The War Department granted authorization to Colonel Styer to send “selected staff officers and necessary intelligence personnel by the first available transportation, either governmental or commercial.” The nucleus of this intelligence section had been organized the latter part of July 1918.

The Department Commander authorized formation of a special detachment of fifty enlisted men selected from the Philippine organization because of their knowledge of Russian, Czech, Magyar, German and other languages. The enlisted men “were kept hopping” before leaving. Frenzied preparation was going on everywhere. Five officers were selected in Manila with Major David P. Barrows, Cavalry, U.S.A. Intelligence, as senior officer.

The four officers with Barrows were Captains Frank Brezina and Edward Jennings and First Lieutenants Conrad Skladal and Karol B. Kozlowski. They were organized into a special detachment under Brezina and were given a brief course of instruction at Camp William McKinley and Camp Eldridge, Laguna. Their studies included the elements of intelligence work, the art of interpreting, scouting and reconnaissance, map reading, hippology and horsemanship. On the voyage to Vladivostok, instruction was continued daily.

Brezina spoke both Czech and German; Sklado, Czech and Russian; Kozlowki, Polish and Russian. Accompanying the intelligence officers were August Jacumin, chief clerk; John McKearney, intelligence officer; a Japanese interpreter; and Apolonio Sinalubong, a Filipino photographer.

A selected number of volumes, photographic apparatus and office equipment were provided by the Intelligence Division. Considerable map material and military information were also taken. These materials were obtained by Barrows while on a special military mission in Manchuria and Siberia from March to June, 1918.

Charles Kislingbury had enlisted as an aerial photographer in the Signal Corps and “was eager to get going.” In error, however, he had been dispatched to Angel Island instead of Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After he had been sworn in, he found he was in the regular army and complained bitterly. He was sent to the Philippines and told he would be reporting to the First Aero Squadron based in Manila. Arriving in Fort McKinley, he found the squadron had just left for the Presidio in San Francisco. Furious, he asked permission to follow the Squadron. This request was refused; he was advised he could enroll in Officers’ Training School. However, when it was learned he had military experience, he was assigned to M Company, 31st Infantry. This unit was stationed at Corregidor. After completing basic training, he was again sent to Fort McKinley and assigned to a machine gun company for weapons training with an intelligence section that was being organized.

Kislingbury asks: “Can you imagine finding yourself in a Machine Gun Company if you wanted to be an aerial photographer? But that’s the army for you – and my problems all happened because of a mix-up in transportation.”
A detachment of eighteen members of Co. D, 53rd Telegraph Battalion, Signal Corps, with semi-permanent communications also received orders. This detachment consisted of two sergeants first class, seven corpsmen, six privates first class and three privates.”
Walter Smith, a Brooklyn, New York lad, was twenty-one years old when he reached Vladivostok. He became popular with the Russian girls and later married a beautiful girl in Vladivostok in the Roman Catholic church.
Before arriving in Siberia, however, he recalled he had been at Corregidor, then on Grand Island at the mouth of the bay some fifty miles north of Corregidor. There he was transferred to Co. D, Signal Battalion in the summer 1918. “Suddenly,” he said, “we were told to prepare to leave. We were not given much notice, only about ten days, before we departed.”
The veterinarian unit under Captain John A. McKinnon, accompanied by civilian farrier William Humphries, was told to leave Manila with a stock consisting of 130 head of horses and 340 head of mules. Second Lieutenants Wood and Kunzmann were to take a detachment of forty-eight men and animals on the CROOK. The rest were to follow later on the SHERMAN.
A designated officer with authority for court-materials was also directed to be assigned to the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia.
One officer and eighteen enlisted men were directed to form an engineer detachment to accompany the expeditionary force in accordance with confidential instructions issued by the Commanding General of the Philippine Department. The personnel of this detachment consisted of one captain, one master engineer jr. grade, two sergeants, three corporals, one saddler, five privates first class and six privates. All personnel were equipped as mounted engineers and carried field equipment for reconnaissance, map reproductions, sketching and photography. One escort wagon and a four-line team was furnished by the 27th Infantry for the transportation of the equipment.
Upon departure from Manila, this detachment was placed under the control of the intelligence officer and remained so until September 11, 1918 when it separated from intelligence and placed under the command of the engineer officer.
It was only a matter of days before all was in readiness. Colonel Styer, per General Order #48, August 6, 1918, was officially directed to command the 27th Infantry Regiment and to embark on the USAT CROOK, the USAT WARREN and USAT MERRITT at 4 pm on August 7th. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Morrow was named second in command.

The first men to board the transports were eager to see their “accommodations.” Surveying the situation, even the most optimistic were convinced that this would be no luxury cruise. They groaned in despair. No suites faced them, but rather a series of canvas bunks on iron racks, three tiers high.
Those who managed a top bunk grinned broadly, and those slated for the bottoms complained loudly. Any doughboy knows a top pallet is the only dry place when buddies unload in their misery of seasickness.
One man who believed he was surely going to France said he realized such an idea was “shot to hell” when he noted the northerly direction of the transports. Yet he and others were puzzled; there was an uncertainty about their destination which the men did not like. Some were pretty confident that the direction of the ship might be reversed. No one could honestly believe they would be heading due north in tropical outfits.
But the transports plowed on, and before long the men saw the strange paper-like towns of Japan and watched sampans in the water. This fascinated the doughboys as they entered a Japanese harbor for coaling. Most of them hovered at the rails to watch the strange coaling procedure. Diaries and letters from men on this and subsequent trips are full of the stories of lines of humans of all descriptions, including children, passing baskets full of coal up one line and receiving the empty baskets down the other. The great human conveyor belt with its remarkable efficiency and speed astounded the men.
The Medical History Report of the Expedition stated that this voyage was uneventful and that good weather was experienced. That is not the way most of the men remembered it.
Elmer Moe told of his great sadness watching poor seasick mules. “They hung their heads and just oozed water and foam from their mouths and nostrils,” he reported. “They never vomited, just dripped uncontrollably in utter discomfort.:
Emory Todd, who had been raised on a small California farm, found the experience of travelling on an ocean different from anything he might have imagined. He was appalled at the sight of human seasickness and then utterly astounded when he found that the poor mules were seasick. He recalled that one mule had to be suspended in a sling and said that in spite of all efforts the mule died.
Walter Smith, travelling of the CROOK, wrote of a typhoon. He stated that they had passed Formosa going north and had run into part of the storm. “It was so bad it pushed us back again to Luzon and then a couple of days later we went past Formosa again.”
Nick Hochee recorded that it was after passing Nagasaki that the men were informed that their destination would be Valdivostok, Siberia. Hochee said he was “an old man of 27” when he found himself en route to Siberia. Unlike his buddies he had seen “a good bit of the world” for he had been born in Romania and had migrated to the United States in 1908, enlisting in the United States Army in 1913. His real name was Hociota, but his army friends could not pronounce it so they called him Hochee. Only one paymaster continued to call him by his right name. Today the former soldier still used Hochee. He never thought when he travelled across the Atlantic to America that one day he would be crossing the Pacific to Siberia. But at Nagasaki he got the news and just shook his head. It was news that seemed to drop like a bombshell. The men were told that their mission was not to fight in the trenches in France but to guard the Trans-Siberian Railway and to keep it open for troops and supplies. White Russians and Japanese armies were said to be fighting the Bolsheviks inland. It all sounded different and exciting, but it did dash forever the hopes of getting to Europe. Where were they going to find Krauts in Siberia? And what about those hoped-for trips on furlough to Gay Paree?
All of a sudden someone yelled, “How are we going to understand those people; none of us can speak Russian.” There was a wild search for those who might be able to teach them a few Russian words. All at once they had pretty well decided they would let their cousins fight the Huns. “To hell with France” was the sudden new attitude. They would go go Vladivostok “and paint that old town red.” After all how many men had ever had a chance to go to Siberia? But to paint the town red they had to be able to speak some of the language.
“I was a lucky one,” Hochee said, “as I was a Corporal and had two Russian speaking privates in my squad. In the next few days I could utter the three most important words in the Russian language: Girl, Okay and Beer.”
Besides learning Russian, there was a daily contest in thievery. The men attempted to snatch food from the officers’ mess at night in order to keep from starving, for they could not stomach the maggot-ridden food they were served.
Lectures on conduct gave the men food for thought. Milo Fields, a bandsman of the 27th Infantry, says that the fiery Colonel Charles Morrow gave them an unforgettable briefing.
Morrow had been with the 15th Infantry in Tientsin, China. Affectionately called “Bull of the Woods,” he usually meant what he said and “had the guts to demand discipline.” Some of the men said they could kill him and yet they would have laid down their lives for “Old Bull!” Later when he was confronted with the Cossacks in Verkhne-Udinsk, he told his men, “Any S.O.B. that gets hit with a whip and doesn’t shoot the man will get six months.”
Fields wrote of the day Morrow appeared on the bridge of the transport to give them a man-to-man lecture. “He looked so spic and span,” said the soldier, “and gave us one of the finest lectures I ever heard any officer make. He elaborated on each minute detail of how an American soldier should behave. He put special emphasis on the problems of going into the country that had had a revolution and dwelled at length on drinking, dress and the courtesy a man should give to the Russian people while on their soil.”
Hamor Scott of Oregon told of the excitement upon finding a fourteen-year-old stowaway on the transport. “The boy had hung around the barracks in Manila always complaining that his father didn’t like him. When the men left he apparently decided to go along. Meanwhile back in Manila his father was nearly frantic and sent message after message to the transports asking if anyone had found his boy. The boy was finally found on the MERRITT and sent back to Manila. “We learned later,” says Scott, “that his father met him with open arms and the boy found he loved him after all.”
Many men had smuggled dogs aboard. The animals were not used to the ocean either and bayed mournfully to such an extent that the officers declared any dog found would be cast overboard. There was much scurrying to hush the dogs to keep the in hiding.
There were also hours of stark fear, the strange, cold, gripping kind of fear that creeps into a man’s heart and makes him uneasy, the kind that come with uncertainty. And the homesickness! Most of the fear and the homesickness came from staring into the wide expanses of water that had a mystic effect on those that had never been on a great ocean before.
To men who had never been further than their garden gate or their farmyard fence before entering the army, the landless empty views which offered nothing but water as far as the eye could see were a strange as well as terrifying new experiences.
Gambling, always a favorite pastime, was evident everywhere. And music rolled hourly from the Victrola in the ship’s social hall. But in time the men became immune to the old songs heard over and over again and to the vast expanse of ocean and began to count the miles and hours until they would land in Vladivostok.
Nearing their destination the transports plied among the islands forming the southern extremity of the Great Bay. They entered that landlocked and naturally fortified harbor, the eastern door to the Russian Empire. Edging closer, they saw a magnificent city built upon an almost impregnable harbor site. Vladivostok appeared to be a civilized city.
To their astonishment the marines and sailors of the USS BROOKLYN greeted them with bands playing. There were salutes from other vessels, and the people on the land were waving and cheering. Flags flew, all kinds of flags. It looked as though the entire populace was on the dock. As one man said, “it was even greater than entering a huge State Fair at home when the main attraction was featured.”
But they did not yet know what really lay ahead.

The 31st had been organized eight months before the United States entered The Great War and had been stationed in the Philippine Islands.
After the collapse of the Russian Army in the spring of 1918, there were rumors among the higher echelon of the possibility of a Siberian expedition. However, the men in lower brackets apparently knew nothing of this. Then the men of the 31st received word that the 27th had left without them. Morale dragged. The 31st felt it was to be the goat again, condemned to stay in the Orient with its scorching sun, its mud and its insects.
On August 8, 1918, Private Wilbur Goreham sent a gift to his “darling” in his native Iowa. He registered his gift in Manila, and in the accompanying letter he said they were disappointed at the way things were going. He added simply and plaintively that “the 27th left last night…there were three boats of them.”
The next day, August 9th, a confidential instruction in the form of a letter from the Department Adjutant was received by the Commanding Officer of the 31st Infantry stating that he was now to “prepare to move.” At this time the regiment was scattered in several places. Orders were given to assemble in Manila.
The 3rd Battalion at Corregidor had already moved to Curatel-de-Espana within the Walled City of Manila. There it waited for troop transport until the rest of the 31st reached the city.
Captain William S. Crom was in command of Companies I, K, L and M. Crom was a native Georgian who had joined the Philippines constabulary following his graduation from the University of Florida.
The 3rd received sailing orders on the 9th and boarded an inter-island boat. There was much excitement. As one man put it, “It was as if the doughboys were off to conquer a great new world.”
When they started their thirty-mile trip, the Philippine band at Corregidor gave them a loud and lusty send-off. The strains of “Just Like Washington Crossing the Delaware” reached their ears, and the men laughed heartily. There was no Trenton ahead, but they wondered what was awaiting them.
William Johnson, later a school principal, recorded that they put their equipment on the barges and then went down the Pasig River to wait for loading on the SHERMAN. He added, “One man jumped overboard as we went around Bataan and was lost.”
They later heard the strains of “There’ll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.” It was a forecast! Although it is doubtful that any of the musicians were clairvoyant, there certainly was “a hot time in old Manila Town” that night.
Jesse Ward said that when they got to Manila they were all given passes until midnight. He added, “Only about five percent of the 3rd Battalion came in sober that night. By noon the next day very few were wearing their stripes.”
Ward, who had been raised on a farm, had married at the age of nineteen in 1916. In 1918 he had enlisted at Texarkana, Arkansas. On the day he sailed from the Philippines, June 5, 1918, his only son was born. He served in Siberia with M Company.
The 1st and 2nd Battalions, Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Machine and Supply Companies had arrived from Fort William McKinley via barges. The men had been working out problems on a miniature battlefield at the fort to become familiar with situations in no man’s land. If anyone had told them they were headed for Russia they would have laughed. There had been a few thrilling engagements and a few casualties on their “battlefield”, but they had worked hard to make themselves fit.
Some felt pretty low that spring and summer because of the flu and found it difficult doing their jobs; yet somehow they managed. With the prospect of moving, they were all excited and eager.
They still had no idea of their destination, but as one man said, “A soldier never knows anything anyway. We were simply ordered out with full pack, sent to Manila and lined up at the dock with full equipment and told to be ready for shipment somewhere.”
The few who heard rumors about Siberia discounted them. Having had trailing in Manila from February until August, they could not fathom the logic of being sent to freeze in Siberia. Furthermore, as both Russia and Japan were our allies at the time, no one would believe that the United States troops would be sent there at all. For what purpose? It was a question many men were to ask again and again in the months ahead. Some are still asking.
Irving Dexter noted in his diary that he had “packed on the 7th, left Fort William McKinley on the 12th and sailed down the Psig River to Manila where we left on the SHERMAN heading north.”
Dexter had been born in the old Dexter homestead in North Scituate, Rhode Island, a little New England town near Cape Cod. He grew up working as a farmhand, and he learned some of the 3 R’s in a tiny one-room country schoolhouse. but sometimes Dexter, who preferred dream of far-off places, would “Hide in the apple orchard in order to escape school.” He wondered if he would ever be able to see the world. At the end of each day when he had finished the hard farm work, he would relax by practicing on his cornet. He little realized then that this would stand him in good stead in the army, but it did just that. He was a member of the 31st Infantry Band when he reached Siberia.
Finally, on August 12, 1918, General Orders, Instruction #50 was issued to the 31st Infantry Regiment, Colonel Frederic H. Sargeant commanding, to embark on the USAT SHERMAN at 6 pm with 45 officers and 1,379 men.

There was much jubilation when the men found they were finally out of “that hell hole Manila.” The jubilation did not last long when they surveyed their bunks. Groaning in despair, as the men of the 27th had when they boarded the transports, they looked at the series of canvan bunks built on iron racks, three high. Again, each hoped to draw a top slab. The men figured they would spend enough time in those damp, stuffy quarters and “hit the deck” as soon as they had thrown down their equipment. Hardly had they reached topside when some already began to line the rails to relieve their queasy stomachs.
“Holy smoke,” said one hardened traveler, “look at those guys and we haven’t even eaten yet. What’s going to happen when the whole company eats.” “Shut up,” said someone, “let’s not even think about it. Let’s do something.” A crap game started immediately.
Sergeant Harry Rohrer cornered Dusty Rhoades (Corporal William Rhoades) and said, “Let’s skip the crap game and find a better place to park than in that hole below.” They took a turn around the deck and located a spot behind some rope on the fantail. “This ought to give us plenty of fresh air,” said Rohere. They decided to try it.
“All right Sarge, now that we have found a place to bunk, how about telling me where we are headed for.”
“I haven’t the faintest notion but think we will go to the States and they over to France – where else?”
“Where else?” asked a passerby. “Are you kidding? We are heading straight north.”
Rohrer and Rhoades stared at each other. How stupid each though they had been, for they were indeed headed north.
At the time the sea was rough, and the roughness continued for several days. Not many were on deck. Leo G. Fifer said, “One sick man from I Company jumped overboard and all our efforts to save him were in vain.”
Fifer was one of those young men who was not used to the ocean. He had been born and raised a farmer. He knew more about Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa than he did about the Pacific Ocean. He had enlisted in the army in October, 1919, he went back to farming in Effingham, Kansas. Later he worked as a car inspector. But he again “returned to the earth” at Grant City, Missouri until he bought his own farm at Harveyville, Kansas, where he still lives. War years are not yet over for Fifer. He had a son in Vietnam for the second time; another son who served in Vietnam later joined the navy. But back in 1918 he did not foresee these future events. He only knew that he did not like that rough ocean and that he would be happy to see land again.
Some men continued to be ill, and Fifer reported that there was a rough-looking seacoast before them as they neared Nagasaki. Sick or not, when they reached Nagasaki the men all tried to make their way to land. There were Geisha houses and bars and much to be seen.
In one place a brawl started over the price of saki. A whistle blew and the place was suddenly full of police unsheathing their long shining sabers. Frightened by the sabers and the promptness of the police, the men disbanded rapidly. Fifer said it was “one devil of a place to have to live in,” so it is assumed he was happy to leave.
Before long they left Nagasaki. On the 20th they sighted land along the Korean coast. Then nothing lay ahead of them but Vladivostok. Bets were made as to how long it would take to get in. The men were charged with a new kind of excitement at the thought of landing safely in Siberia. They could not wait to see the men of the 27th and to find out what was happening.
The men of the 31st arrived in Vladivostok on August 21, 1918. George Miller of the BROOKLYN recorded in his diary on this date: “It was 2:30 pm when the USAT SHERMAN with 1800 troops and supplies docked at the extreme end of the Golden Horn Bay.”
Meanwhile, the men on the SHERMAN were shouting with delight. Their frustrations and fears were over, but they still wondered why they were approaching the coldest place in the world in tropical uniforms. More than one hoped that warm clothes would be waiting. They all hugged the rail to see what Vladivostok looked like.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” yelled someone, “there are some of the men of the 27th Infantry. Thank God for those familiar faces.”
“Yeah,” yelled someone else, “and look at those men on crutches, they are all bandaged up. Guess we are really close to some big show.”
“Hey you guys, welcome,” yelled the men of the 27th.
“Here is your new home, Sunshiners.”
“Have you got any O.D.’s? If not, you are all going to be covered with icicles by morning. It gets cold as hell here at night.”
Various men of the 31st shouted through cupped hands to be heard over the din. They asked all manner of questions.
“What’s been going on anyway?” yelled someone.
Others asked, “Who are the gangs under guard and where did those bandaged guys get hurt?”
“Where is the battlefield and what are we fighting?”
“The guys under guard are some of our Heinie pals. We have the pleasure to inform you that we are going to turn them over to you guys to handle.” There was much laughter on the dock.
The men of the 27th did not know if this was good news or bad news.
“What about the bandaged guys,” they persisted.
“They have been hurt in one fracas or another. Everyone shoots at everyone else and most of them don’t know why. You might call it any man’s war.”
The men of the 31st did not know what to think of this news, but the din was too loud to hear any further screamed comments. The ovation had really started. Again there were bands, songs, flag-waving and hats hurled in the air. The men of the BROOKLYN responded with cheers, and bands played as the transport nosed they could lay their hands on. The men of the31st felt elated. They were going to be among old friends again.
Ralph Fletcher wrote to his wife, “Oh Darling would that you could have come here with me into this beautiful city and delightful climate in times other than war.” He described the sight of fishing craft, of ships of many nations and of the magnificent ovation given to them upon arrival.
“This is destined to be one of the greatest seaports and greatest cities in the world,” he wrote, “and is already one of the most beautiful and natural harbors anywhere. Think of the country that lies behind it; get a good map and study it and you will find that our own country will be completely lost in this outlet of the world’s greatest land today.
“Can you blame me for the thrill I felt when we came in and saw this large city full of magnificent buildings, railways and docks, but a city that had fallen. Old friendships will be renewed among our brother officers who preceded us and new ones will be made. We are all here with one idea; America for the first time in a new part of the world in force sufficient to be recognized. It is great.”
Others wrote in letters and in their diaries about how the 27th had greeted them, about the wounded Russian and Czecho-Slovak soldiers on the docks, about some of the famous women fighters of the Battalion of Death who were there and who cheered them on. As one man said, “We are about to disembark in a wonderful and civilized-looking city.” He was to find out that Vladivostok had two faces, one of beauty from dockside and one of ugliness from within.
Chapter XI

The Men in the States
Prepare to Move,
August 1918

The 8th Division of the United States’ Army was in training at Camp Fremont, Palo Alto, California during the summer of 1918. The general belief at camp was that the 8th Division expected to leave for France in October. It consisted of regulars of the 8th, 12th, 13th and 62nd Regiments augmented by volunteers and draftees to the then war strength of 250 men per company.
On July 8, 1918 William S. Graves assumed his new post as Commander of the 8th Division. He had requested this post when General Peyton C. March had offered him a choice of command. Graves was anxious to reach France and felt strongly that the 8th would be sent over as rumored.
Graves had been born at Mt. Calm, Texas and had graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1889. That same year he had been ordered to the Philippine Islands where he had participated in several active campaigns. He had received the official thanks of General J.F. Bell for gallantry in action against insurgents at Caloocam in 1901. After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, he had spent several months aiding in the restoration projects. He had been appointed to serve with the General Staff Corps in 1909 and appointed its secretary for 1911 and 1912. Again appointed to that post in 1914, he held it until he was sent to Siberia in the summer of 1918.
Graves had no idea of the complicated Siberian sojourn when the Command of the American Expeditionary Forces in Vladivostok was placed in his hands. Shortly after he had settled at Camp Fremont with the hope of going to France, he was summoned to Kansas City to receive orders to an entirely different theater of war – Siberia.
The secrecy which surrounded all aspects of the Siberian campaign left its mark on Graves and on others. Not only did he receive the August message from Washington in code, but he was given no information except the directive to take the first and fastest train to Kansas City and to proceed to the Baltimore Hotel where he was to ask for Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War.
Graves had not been told how long he would be away from camp nor the reason for the trip. He hardly knew how to pack and became curious about and disturbed by the secrecy. Nevertheless, he found that a Santa Fe train would be leaving San Francisco within two hours. He took this train only to find there were no pullman accommodations available. After wiring Baker the arrival time of his train, he spent the long, wearisome, worrisome night in the coach.
Reaching Kansas City at 10 pm, Graves was informed by a redcap that Secretary Baker, in a rush to leave, was awaiting him there at the station. This, too, seemed odd.
There was no time for small talk. Graves was informed that the Department of War had decided to send him to Siberia. Baker knew the General was unhappy with this assignment and offered his regrets. He told Graves in his customarily forthright manner, “If in the future you want to cuss anybody for sending you to Siberia, I am that man.”
Then he handed Graves a large sealed envelope and briefly stated words that the General was to recall many times in the future: “This contains the policy of the United States in Russia. Watch your step, you will be walking on eggs loaded with dynamite. God Bless you and good-bye.”
Baker hastened away to a waiting train. Graves stood rooted in the station. He looked at the huge envelope in his had. Then with a sense of foreboding, he hastened to the Baltimore Hotel and opened it at once.
Inside were seven long pages. The whole was headed “Aide Memoire.” There was no signature, but at the end there appeared the notation “Department of State, Washington, July 17, 1918.”
Later Graves learned that President Wilson had written the document on his typewriter in the White House without consulting anyone. Wilson’s belief in peace as a means to solve the woes of mankind was well known. His complete belief that he would do the right thing in a ll cases doubtless colored his thinking more than once. In this instance the “Aide Memoire” stands as a memo of one idealistic man regarding the policy of the United States in Siberia. General Graves was to adhere to this policy to the consternation of some but to the highest commendation of many.
After reading the document Graves retired, but sleep was long in coming. Too many questions raced through his mind. Why all the secrecy? Why the hands-off policy which was so clearly indicated in the Aide Memoire if armed men were to be sent to Russia? Where did Japan stand in all this? And what about the other Allies? Why was he not given more date regarding conditions of Siberia?
Greater and lesser men would have paced the floor and tossed in their beds if assailed by such an assignment. It may be imagined that Graves read and reread the directive in an effort to analyze each sentence.
On August 4th Graves returned to San Francisco. He received further orders and began to coordinate his activities.
He was told to select and hold in readiness five thousand infantry, including forty-eight sergeants and ninty-five corporals, of longest training for service in Siberia. The men were to be “strong, hardy, fit for service intended and to represent all parts of the United States; it being desired that they should now a large proportion of men in the Pacific Coast States.”
Military necessity, Graves was told, demanded trained soldiers from Camp Fremont, although it was known that this would be a sacrifice on the part of the 8th Division.
“Get winter clothing,” he was ordered, “and get your men ready for immediate orders to sail for Vladivostok.”
Washington wired Graves that the Philippine Department had received similar orders. He was instructed to communicate directly with the latter regarding staff officers to be assigned from there.
Orders piled on orders. On August 6, 1918 a cable advised Graves that fifteen officers and a number of field clerks from the Intelligence Division in Washington, D.C. would be at his disposal. He was informed that he was to be in command of Evacuation Hospital #17 (Fort Sam Houston), Base Hospital #93 (Camp Lewis), Medical Supply CEPTO #7 (San Francisco) and two sections of Bakery Company #391 (Presidio). Graves was told to take along with him one veterinary field unit, certain medical and dental officers, clerks and noncommissioned officers and enlisted men from Headquarters of the 8th Division.
He was ordered to sail on the USAT THOMAS as soon as he had everything and everyone in readiness. Their personnel consisted of his staff and 1,900 men.
At camp the first indication of movement was a notice on the bulletin board of the 8th Division Officers’ Club. This notice stated the Colonel P. Davidson was willing to receive the names of sixteen officers desiring overseas service.
Lt. Stephen Chadwick, future Commander-in-Chief of the American Legion, stated: “It didn’t take long to make up that list as the men were afraid that the tide might be turning the war and if it did they would not have a chance to get into the fight. Later there was an order in the Company Rooms calling for a list of 1,250 men and a few non-coms for immediate transfer. The order was posted at 2 am one day and by breakfast time the lists were ready and the men were assembled. They were divided into five companies with me in command of the detachment. I selected Lieutenant D.B. Stanbro as Adjutant. It was at this point that the officers were informed that their service was to be in Siberia where the United States would participate in a joint Allied Intervention.”
When the men heard that Siberia was to be their destination, shock was evident. One man asked, “Isn’t that up at the end of the world somewhere?”Another said, “What happened to the war in France?” Some just shook their heads.
Nevertheless, within two days they were equipped with a complete change of suitable clothing for a cold climate. There was much excitement. Men began to pour in from other camps.
Memories still linger from those days of a half century ago. Joseph Foley has a picture with an arrow proudly showing his position in the front row. It was taken when the men were leaving Camp Fremont.
Henry Fry was a tall eager youth who had been born in Crawford County, Arkansas. He was to become the chief baker of the Siberian Expedition, and later in life, Commander of the Los Angeles Unit of the Siberian Veterans. He had attended high school in Arkansas before joining the army in 1911.
Fry was in San Diego when he got orders from Washington to prepare for overseas duty. He had expected to be sent to France. Outgoing and religious, he was easily inspired by beauty. When he subsequently reached Siberia, he saw the beauty in landscapes and in the faces of the strange people he met there. He was appalled by the moral standards of some of his friends. Asked if he suffered any wounds in Siberia he said, “Only a score heart. I was afraid some ‘hero’ from France would run away with my lovely California girl while I sweated it out for sixteen long months in Siberia.” However, that girl was waiting for him when he returned, and they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1970.
When he received his orders, Fry said: “We all felt something was afoot that was strange and knew we were being primed for the big day. Then we were called back to San Francisco and we were sure of it. But everything that was happening was rather odd. In the old days, on the Mexican border, as in all field set-ups in large camps, we had field bakeries consisting of small ovens built in sections. These could be set up anywhere in the open in special tents. but suddenly sections of field bakery equipment began to arrive all crated up for shipping. I just scratched me head and began to wonder what in hell was going on. I knew from experience that it would take a million of those little field ovens to supply an army on war footing.”
Suddenly a rigid order came through stating that no one was to leave camp. The men knew “that meant something for sure” and began to wonder, gossip and dream. Even the most boisterous smart alecks became silent. Fear stalked the camp. A strange sense of loneliness and isolation prevailed. Many a man spent his last night writing to loved ones. On man said that seemingly hundreds of unfulfilled promises and ambitions flashed through his mind.
Among those who wrote home was Stephen Chadwick. On August12, 1918, he wrote these words to the woman who later became his wife: “…though continents separate use and oceans divide, wars have always ended and men have always come back.” In the letter he spoke of the frantic preparations at camp and of how he had rushed into the city to get fur gloves, a fur cap and German socks “which they now call liberty socks!”
Other men such as R.F. Lay, Charles Mitchell and Joseph Longuevan also recalled the rush before leaving. Longuevan later became Commander of the Siberian Veterans’ Unit in California. He was among those selected from the old regular army of the 8th Division’s 12th Infantry Regiment to go to Siberia. He said he was a young green civilian soldier with only eighteen months service when he found himself in Siberia as a platoon sergeant with responsibility for sixty men.
A cable from Washington gave special orders that the forces were to leave Camp Fremont on August 14, 1918. Two special trains left at 12:30 and 12:35 pm. Secrecy prevailed. Shades were drawn and the trains proceeded through San Francisco to the dock where the men detrained at 2:30 pm.
Chadwick reported that when assignees of the 8th Division arrived, the detachments were stowed as fast as the men would pass the checking officers. Each man was found to be in order as to his equipment and service records. The 12th Regiment, however, not being arranged in accordance with the passenger list, was still tangled after an hour. Then it was found that two men were on board without their service records and two service records were without men. This performance was a subject of much commotion for both the group and the embarkation authorities, and some hard language ensued.
All was finally in order. The USAT THOMAS was ready to leave the Golden Gate with the first contingent of men from the United States.
Major General William S. Graves was in command. He embarked with Lt. Colonel O.P. Robinson, Chief of Staff, Captain Robert L. Eichelberger, Assistant Chief of Staff, forty other officers, staff and line from the 8th and 12th Infantry Regiments and the Medical and Dental Corps, one bakery company, forth field clerks and 1,889 enlisted personnel.
Many of the men left with memories forever graven in their hearts. Captain Eichelberger described his vivid memories of the morning he left Palo Alto for the docks at Fort Mason to board the THOMAS. Eichelberger had been born in Urbana, Ohio on March 9, 1986. His family had emigrated from Switzerland in 1726 and had a member in every war the United States had fought. He retired in 1950 as a four-star general and died at the age of seventy-five in 1961. The years after Siberia were busy ones. Siberia was the first experience he had with the cunning and duplicity of out then so-called ally, the Japanese. This experience may have influenced his later direction of American troops in combat. Americans under Eichelberger later inflicted on the Japanese in the sweltering slime-coated jungles of New Guinea in legendary. His success may well have had its origin in Siberia where he became familiar with the Japanese brand of cunning.
As Captain Eichelberger bade his wife farewell that morning in August, 1918, he had little knowledge of what the future would hold. He knew only that he was going far away. Of the parting he said plaintively: “It was in the middle of August and at the time there was no indication that the end of the war was insight. I had been serving as Assistant Chief of Staff…and Mrs. Eichelberger was living on the outskirts of Palo Alto in a boarding house. The days of packing had been strenuous and I had seen very little of her but my memories as she said goodbye that morning in a red bathrobe, and with no tears in her eyes, will never be forgotten. It was such a hopeless outlook. Siberia seemed cold and desolate, forbidding and far away, and she was so brave.”
Perry Hanson was handed a card to mail stating that he had arrived safely at Vladivostok. He signed it and dropped it in a box. Apparently he was not the only one to mail his card prematurely. It appears obvious that the officers did not make it clear that the cards were not to be mailed until the troops reached their destination. Eichelberger mentioned this in another letter to his wife, written when he left. He says: “Robinson just saw some man drip one of those confidential postal cards saying that he had ‘arrived safely in a foreign port’…he is going to have it censored.”
On board ship after the mad rush, the mad clung to the ship’s rail for a last look. The THOMAS pulled away from the dock at 5:30 pm on August 14, 1918. The transport was escorted by the battleship USS OREGON and the gunboat USS VICKSBURG. For some reason the shipping authorities would not permit sailing until after dark.
Records show that the following personnel were en route to Vladivostok as of August 14:
Officers Men
53 1537 Left on the USAT CROOK, USAT WARREN and USAT MERRITT ON August 7, 1918 from the Philippine Islands.
45 1379 Left of the USAT SHERMAN on August 14, 1918 from the Philippine Islands.
47 1889 Left on the USAT THOMAS on August 14, 1918 from San Francisco.
_____ ____
145 4805 Total

It was bitter cold the first night out. Many a man was happy to use his new fur coat. It was thrilling, too, to feel the chugging of the engines, to hear the songs of men in the social room, and to see the shoreline of America receding into the distance and into the darkness. There was so much behind them and so much ahead.
The officers soon began to feel like potentates at some great feast. The meals they were served were unbelievably scruptuous. In a letter to his wife, Eichelberger told about the meal they were served on the 15th: “Today at noon we had wonderful tomatoes and the finest fresh lobster I have ever eaten, and lots of it. Tonight we had onions, celery, pickles, white bread, soup, fried filet of sole, roast beef, roast chicken, corn on the cob, tomatoes, artichokes, etc. Also ice cream, pudding, cheese and fruit of all kinds. There is plenty of everything and it is well served by Philipino boys.”
The doughboys were not as fortunate. Frank Bean recalled passing up an inch-thick steamed, cooked liver which he said was dished up one morning for breakfast. Henry Fry told Bean he was lucky to have passed it up. “I ate it,” Fry said, “ad I landed in the hospital.”
As long as there was good coffee, the old American standby, most of the men could have endured anything. But they called the drink “jerk coffee.” They were sure one coffee bean was put on a string and dropped into each large pot of boiling water and then jerked out.
Frank Bean complained bitterly about the coffee. He was accustomed to good coffee at his mother’s table. A tall lanky youth, Bean had been born in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1895. Fifteen years later his parents had moved to Denver, Colorado. While in Denver he had entered the service. He combined army duty with his first love, acting. He was a popular member of the Spasskoe Minstrel in Siberia. After his return to civilian life, he was in motion pictures and then started a quarter of a century stint with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
On the THOMAS the hungry men suffered from a desire for good food. The aromatic delights of the officers’ mess increased the suffering. Filipino boys would scurry down the passageway carrying great trays of gourmet classics covered with huge white napkins. “Look out,” the would yell, “hot stuff!”
Someone else would holler, “You know you can’t stand their soldier, move.”
The men would move, look and scowl. Their stomachs would churn and ache at the aroma. But there was little they could do to seize the officers’ food.
One of the endless off-duty jobs was washing clothes. The system used was unique. Bean describes it as the “Ocean’s whirligig washer.” He says the men would tie a bundle of clothes with a tent rope and then drop it out of a porthole. Spinning around in the ocean for a few hundred miles resulted in a fairly clean wash. Several lines of clothes could be seen almost every day splashing around in the Pacific.
The OREGON and the VICKSBURG were escorting the THOMAS, and General Graves became irked at the delays they were causing. Finally, after two days, he ordered full steam ahead for Vladivostok and waved good-bye to the escorts.
The ship’s social hall was a popular place where the men sang and danced. But Eichelberger wrote to his wife: “I feel sort of out of it around the men. They step out of my way and say ‘Good Evening Sir’ and this makes me feel one hundred years old!”
Eichelberger told his wife that at the sales commissary the men could enjoy buying things and that there was just about everything for sale. But the men said that the commissary was open for only a few hours each day. Sometimes they could wait in line for hours only have the door slammed in their faces. Bean said that he waited to buy jam or something to stave off longing for steak but after quite a wait all he could get was a bath towel or can of tobacco.
“Bath Room” George, who had been such a joy to the RRSC men, pleased most of the officers on the THOMAS. They chatted with him for hours. He kept his bathroom spic and span and took great pride in it. He had been sailing on the THOMAS for sixteen years and had many tales to tell.
Each morning Robinson and Eichelberger would make a complete inspection, accompanied by a first officer, a doctor, the company commander, and others. George, as bath steward, lightened their hearts as he proudly showed them his work. One day he told Eichelberger, “The Kuhnel [Colonel Robinson} is sick.” After that Eichelberger took the tour alone. He said George’s bathroom was the cleanest he had ever seen.
During the officers’ inspection, some of the men wrote letters. One man had the job of censoring, Major Albert J. Galen, Judge Advocate from Helena, Montana. He was considered “a good companion, typical Westerner and big man.”
Most of the men enjoyed the chances they had to talk to Galen, but he was usually so busy that he had very few free moments. He was “knee-deep in his censor’s duties.” By September 1st the men had given him one full sack of mail to censor, and Galen was starting on a second sack. He was kept busy from morning to night. The letters were written in almost every language and in all types of handwriting.
In one of Chadwick’s letters he wrote: ” Many were sick the first few days…[We saw} perhaps a whale or a sea gull per day. Sometimes we don’t have either but then sometimes it rains so that life in not with incident. There will be lots to be said when the war is over but the censor says you don’t care to hear it now…”
Sometimes Galen had to rest his eyes. Then he stretched his legs with the other men. Walking on the ship was a necessity for those who ate at the officers’ mess. In addition to the good food at mealtime, the officers had a Chinese steward on board who brought them tea before their feet touched the floor in the morning. Then a Filipino boy, who shined their shoes while they slept, brought coffee. The hikes around the ship were indeed necessary.
On August 19th, a silver reflection on the long expanse of the quite ocean surface brought many doughboys to the ship’s rail. There was a serenity in that moonlit scene that entranced more than one. Yet that very night the rains whipped and washed the transport. The ocean became so rough that the men could barely maintain their footing. The ship’s Captain shrugged and called it a “heavy sea”. Cold followed the storm. By the 22nd steam heat was welcome, although the noise that accompanied it made the cabins sound like blacksmith shops.
The halfway mark was reached the 24th. On the 25th the THOMAS crossed the 108th meridian. It was Saturday. When they awoke the next day it was Monday. Gaining a day’s pay was hailed with joy, but losing the Sunday dinner, usually the best one, caused many gripes. The cook finally obliged by serving a “Sunday-type” dinner on Monday.
Chadwick wrote home: “Crossed the line and counted a day lost whose setting sun didn’t and whose rising sun never will…we passed one ship, a Hollander and it saluted with its flag…Pass the letters around, paper and time is scarce…I wanted this trip but never thought I would take it at the government’s expense. There is little more I can say. The future offers much of interest and as the government takes the best of care of its men, and accommodations promise to be good, there is nothing for you to worry about…I am the luckiest man in the service to be on this expedition…next [time] I write will be from land.”
Warmth, 52 degrees, finally came again. It “eased the bones.” The rainy and cold weather had penetrated the men’s very being. One man said that it was good to be back in the tropics as he walked the deck that day. But at night the cold struck again. The sea was so rough the men could hardly stay in their berths.
Almost anything was a diversion. A Japanese vessel was noted across the bow of the transport. It was strange and rather eerie to see the other ship’s lights. The THOMAS was proceeding in darkness to avoid attack by raiders.
“Find out who they are and where they are going,” the wireless man was told. The coded message from the other ship was translated. It showed the Japanese wireless man wrote in broken English. The message included the information that the Japanese vessel was destined for San Francisco. The wireless man on the THOMAS asked, “Who you be and where you go?”
As secrecy was the order of the day, the THOMAS “Sparks” was not permitted to reveal this information. He wired back meekly, “We are indeed sorry but we are not permitted to tell you.” To show he was friendly, however, he asked the Japanese about the weather conditions to the west.
Apparently the Japanese were infuriated at the lack of information. Their operator replied, “I do not know. Sorry for you.”
A roar of laughter broke out when the Japanese reply was decoded and passed along.
The incident was but a momentary relief in the routine that was getting so many men down. “Tea at 4; bath at 4:45; dinner at 6; bridge every night,” Eichelberger wrote his wife.
Another man said, “It was drill, meals, lessons and thinking and nauseam.”
By the 30th, the weather had warmed and skies had cleared again. The men shed their heavy clothes. As the heat increased, the feeling of fatigue began to show.
Communication with the BROOKLYN had now been established. The men felt in closer touch with the rest of the world. They learned of conditions i Vladivostok; they were advised that there would be barracks awaiting for all. When Vladivostok’s climate was said to be warmer than San Francisco’s there was a start of disbelief. The doughboys did not know that Siberia had a short hot summer and a long winter, with almost no fall or spring.
There had been a report of the possibility of a typhoon. This report caused much discussion. “We will be able to outrun it if it comes up on the opposite side of Japan,” the Captain stated. “If, however, the typhoon veers north, we may find ourselves running into it head-on.” Consternation and fear stalked the ship. The less concerned men laid bets as to whether or not it would hit the transport.
In the late afternoon of August 30th, a faint outline of land was noted. By night lights along the shore were visible. On the 31st there was less talk of the typhoon and more talk of the land. The men were “pretty sick of the water.” They longed to be on land. The ship’s course was so close to shore it was possible to note terraced farms, “beautifully landscaped and doll-like.” For five hours they passed village after village. The hilly land seemed to drop down into the sea where fishing sampans rowed about and came close to the THOMAS. One fisherman almost touched the ship with his oar. He, and others, stood up to shout welcome, and some proudly displayed their catch of fish.
Henry Fry still recalls the first sight of land and the waving and cheering of other human beings. This contact gave him a renewed interest in life. The Japanese people seemed so elevated to see the shipload of American soldiers that it made the men feel warm and happy. However, Fry became annoyed at the Japanese when he found that the THOMAS had to lay to. A Japanese transport was headed for Vladivostok with a general on board who outranked Major General Graves. This gave the Japanese ship precedence over the American.
That night the typhoon passed behind them. September morn saw a cloudless sky and a smooth Sea of Japan. Men used binoculars to enjoy the view. They eagerly discussed the news that they could reach their Siberian destination by 8 pm that night. The men quickly began to write letters as they were anxious to have the mail ready to be posted on arrival.
Excitement was high-pitched until the Captain announced that he was not going to attempt an after-dark landing. The men had to wait until September 2nd to see Vladivostok. They were in their tropical outfits which were unsuitable for traditionally cold Siberia.

After the 8th Division had left the States, the excitement which had surrounded their departure did not subside. Hectic operations continued as more doughboys went through preparations for the tip to Siberia. They left on “the old cattleboats,” the USAT LOGAN and the USAT SHERIDAN, on Labor Day, September 2, 1918.

Men continued to pour into Camp Fremont for some time. Some had to be quartered in hotels because of the congestion.

San Francisco was a madhouse. The city was overflowing with soldiers from all over the country, and family and friends were rushing in to be on hand for farewells before the ships left California shores.

One doughboy, Nels Jacobson, observed in his diary that he had received his “Greetings” in April. As a result he had to call off a scheduled vacation to keep his appointment with the army. In May he went from Chicago to Jefferson Barracks, Kansas City, and noted, “We call this place hell on account of the treatment we get here.”

He did not elucidate on the nature of his annoyance at Jefferson, but Jesse Sale did. Sale had learned that new recruits were required for replacements in an unrevealed location. He, too, had begun processing at Jefferson Barracks and had become infuriated with the treatment there. After two attempts to enlist, he had finally been drafted. He reported: “I had so much trouble getting in and then they treated us so badly. I felt real sorry for many of the poor devils during our processing. We were handled like a bunch of cattle and sneered at as though we were prisoners or deserters or unwilling to serve. And this was not the case at all.”

Other recruits supported his resentment. They finally decided to call on the sergeant for an explanation of the treatment they were receiving. After than, Sale said, “We were treated with more respect.”

According to Sale, during the processing one of the men fell out of line. “They gave him a shot and he died in the Emergency Room. I heard his family brought suit against the doctors, but I was so sore from my own shots I am not sure what happened. I do remember we were stripped off and run here and there and some of the smart alecks laughed at us. But I never saw anyone that did not pass; only the one that died. The bunch I was with were all sober and came through fine.”

Following the shots the men were taken down to the river banks and quartered in pup tents for two or three nights. “We stayed at Jefferson until they thought we would live. Then we were checked and sent to a supply room to be outfitted.” Sale explained. There he faced a horrible dilemma. Someone had mixed up the cards. He wore a 7-C shoe, and the supply officer had handed him an 8 1/2-E! “Hey,” he yelled, “I won’t be able to walk in these. I could put both my feet inside of one.”

“They are okay. We know what we are doing,” he was told. That was that.
The incident of the shoes was only the beginning. When Sale received the rest of his issue, it was all outsized. “I looked just like a scarecrow,” he said. “I complained to the sergeant but he told me not to worry so much, that it would be okay when I got my new outfit.”
The group left Kansas City “on an all dark train” on May 5, 1918. Their destination was not known.

The men were given two meals a day. Sale, who had a flair for detail, recalls that they were served a syrup named “Poppy Branch.”

According to Jacobson’s diary, they went through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico, stopping about an hour each day. Crossing the California border on the eighth day, they stopped at Needles. Here they had a one-hour march through town.

Sale also recalled this stop. “We looked messy,” he said, “while the town looked spic and span. I wondered what the public thought of such an army.”

Sweat ran freely that day for it was wickedly hot. One man fell out and had to be carried back to the train. There was one day more of travel. They reached Camp Fremont on Thursday, May 9, 1918. Dead-tired, they were relieved that the trip was finally over.

Still grumbling about his suit, Sale went to the supply house the very next day. There he asked a tailor what a uniform would cost.

The tailor gasped as he looked at the doughboy. “Here, I’ll give this to you it fits. I can’t bear to see a United States’ soldier looking as bad as you do.”
Sale hesitated.

“Here,” said the tailor, “Here, I mean it. Try it on.”

That was all Sale needed. It did not take him long to see that this suit was a perfect fit.
The tailor was happy too. He beamed from ear to ear. “But look, look,” he cried, “it is absolutely unbelievable; you are the same man, yes? It is perfect. So perfect I want you to save it for dress wear and I get you another suit.”

Sale “pinched himself to see if he was dreaming.” No, there he was, awake, and it was still daylight.

Later the tailor provided Sale with “a good fit of drill clothes” and managed to get him a pair of first-rate dress shoes.

The lesson Sale learned from all this was that clothes do make the man. Now, with his fitted outfit, he was picked out of formation for special duty.

When he first acquired his new uniform, Sale sized himself up in the mirror and liked the reflection. If only the folks back home could see him, he thought, “It would be especially wonderful if Mother could see how fine I look, for Mother’s Day, May 12th, is just two days off.”

But there was no chance of that. “Everything was popping at the camp,” and the days and weeks ahead were devoted to such activities as exercises, a parade and vaccination shots.
On the 15th of May, Jacobson, who had been sick from his shots, said, “I perked up because that was the day I got my rifle.” Drilling continued and on Tuesday, May 28th, he noted in his diary: “Squads left, Squads right, Heads up, There’s no diamonds on the ground. That’s what the sergeant tells us.”

The drilling went on through June and July, but on the 9th of June and the 6th of July Jacobson noted that they “went to ‘Frisco’.” On the 13th of July he recorded he was “doing some drilling in the trenches today ‘over-the-top’ and on guard. Had padded suits on.”

The training was vigorous. Sales, who had learned a lesson with the clothes, also learned a lesson on the rifle range. He made marksman on the Browning automatic rifle (BAR) and had to carry one of the fifteen-pound, eight-ounce guns with thirty rounds of ammunition through most of his service. When he went on guard duty later with only a Springfield rifle, it was so light he felt he had forgotten something.

Besides rifle range training, the men were given more shots. “What’s going on?” they would ask, but “everything was hush-hush and hurry-up.” The men later decided that the secrecy was to avoid having their families make “a public fuss” regarding their destination.

Many of the men remembered the day President Wilson’s daughter, Margaret, arrived at the camp. They were called for special duty and marched for about three miles to hear her sing. It was a beastly hot day and the sand was dry.

“Did you ever try to stand at attention with the perspiration running down into your eyes?” one soldier asked.

A few days before leaving, there was a frenzy to get materials home. The men were told that “all surplus pictures, good clothes, Kodaks and such had to go back.” Everything was to be censored. Some small item might give the enemy information. Later some of the men were sorry that they had not hidden their cameras; some that did were able to take pictures.

Jacobson noted in his diary that they were waiting for orders to move any day. He said, “On the 17th we left Company A and moved over to Casual Camp. But on the 22nd I was still waiting for orders. A glimmer of hope came on the 23rd when the Company Commander gave us an inspection of clothing, followed by a general inspection of the 24th; the latter lasted from 7 am to 12:30 pm.”

Glad when that was over, Jacobson went down to San Francisco on Sunday, the 25th to take in a few shows. On August 27, 1918, Jacobson cryptically recorded in his diary: “Was on guard today. Prisoner shot his girl and one prisoner knocked the guard on the head.”

The men continued to drill and to wait for further orders. They took pictures and “went to Frisco” as long as they were permitted to do so. On Saturday, August 31st, Jacobson wrote in his diary: “I went down to Frisco at noon and came back at 11:30 pm. I was the only one to leave camp. I did not know we could not leave Company Street.”

David Moore, a young lad of eighteen, had been excited about the war when he first read about it at home in his mother’s kitchen. He had begged her “to let him join up” It had sounded so thrilling to him. He might get to France. He had yearned for that big chance, but his age had made his mother’s consent mandatory. He had pleaded and pleaded. Finally she had been told that by enlisting in the Medical Corps he would be sent to California for a year’s training. As it was certain that the war would be over within a year, she reluctantly had consented.

Yet, in less than thirty days, David Moore was on the transport LOGAN sailing for Siberia! He had had no training whatever!

Before he left San Francisco, Moore had been given a card addressed to his home saying he had arrived safely in Vladivostok, Siberia. When his mother received that card, she became frantic.
It had all happened so fast. Moore was sent to Seattle where he passed his exams, was inoculated and vaccinated on August 9th and was issued a uniform. He was not considered a rookie. On the 24th, Moore and eleven others were at Fort D.A. Russell. The men with Moore were Willie H. Smith, Bert Handbloom, William Barbour, Jimmy Callahan, Frank Orland, Dwight Cone, Raymond Sharpe, Charles Bacon, Lyle Shaffer, Ray Judy, and Thomas Cook.

Bert Handbloom was chosen leader, and at 8 o’clock they were marched off. They had a wonderful trip to Cheyenne, but by the time they took the car ride to Fort Russell they were so covered with coal dust and grime that they were immediately dubbed “The Dirty Dozen.” After the first day they were told that fifty-three men had been ordered to San Francisco and that they were to be included.

Startled by the orders, they reported for inspection. On the 27th they left camp with a Sergeant Hill in charge. Trucks met them at San Francisco to take them to the Presidio. There they were told that they were considered members of Evacuation Hospital #17. They were held in quarantine and given no passes. That in itself seemed ominous. They were sure they were in the army for “it was one continual balling out for the next few days.” They were told there was an emergency call; they would be leaving on short notice. No one dreamed that their destination was Siberia.

“Everybody was sure hard-boiled, especially on this occasion,” Moore noted in his diary. “Every few hours the call would come for another inspection. Finally on September 2nd, all military gear was put in rolls and barracks bags for a 7:30 am inspection. About 8 am we had our packs on, were lined up, fed a sandwich, and marched to the army docks. Everyone was solemn. The packs grew heavy by the time we were half way to the pier.”

Ralph Baggs and Fred Moore were with the Military Intelligence Division of the General Staff of the Army in Washington, D.C. when they received their orders to go to Siberia.

Baggs was a handsome Cornell graduate who enjoyed his intelligence work and had a zest for life in general. He was interested in the theater and was a first-rate tennis player.

Moore later wrote a book about his personal experiences. In it he said: “The Intelligence men were told they would be going to Siberia. Fancy my impression in mid-summer in Washington, on being told I was going to Siberia. Cold, ice, snow, steppes, wolves, whiskers, prisons, Cossacks…All those things passed in review before my mind’s eye against a backdrop of heat waves rising out of F Street where the coolest thing in sight was a traffic policeman near the Treasury Building, standing on a melting asphalt under a white umbrella which displayed an advertisement of a nearby soda fountain.”

Walter M. Case, Assistant Director of Military Relief for the American Red Cross, Pacific Division, procured thirty sweaters, thirty helmets, thirty mufflers, thirty pairs of wristlets, sixty pairs of socks and thirty afghans to be delivered to the American Expeditionary Forces by August 21, 1918. Baggs, while stationed at the Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco with the Intelligence Group, wrote a letter thanking the Red Cross for the “complete selection of articles which were duly received…”

A memorandum dated August 27, 1918, signed by Captain Maximilian Elser, Jr., Captain of Infantry, U.S.A., in Charge, stated: “The following officers have reported with orders to proceed to report to their Commanding General, A.E.F., Siberia. All of these officers are stopping at the Hotel Fairmont, San Francisco:

Captain Maximilian Elser, Jr., Inf. U.S.A.
Captain Frederick F. Moore, U.S.A.
Captain Eraepis E. Rivee, U.S.A. [this name is then ruled out.]
Captain John A. Powell, U.S.A.
Captain Frederick Vieweg, Jr., Ord., U.S.A.
Captain Kenneth B. Robers, U.S.A.
Captain Laurence B. Packard, U.S.A.
First Lieut. Robert J. Scovell, Inf., U.S.A.
First Lieut. Roger W. Straus, S.C. (temporary) U.S.A.
First Lieut. R. Stanchfield, U.S.A.
Second Lieut. Max B. Cushing, U.S.A.
Second Lieut. Lawrence Richmond, Inf., U.S.A.
Second Lieut. Ralph L. Baggs, Inf. U.S.A.
Captain Montgomery Schuyler, Ord., U.S.A. is scheduled to arrive in San Francisco on Saturday, August 17, 1918. The following field clerks have reported with orders to report to the Commanding General, American Expeditionary Force, Siberia. All of these field clerks are stopping at the Hotel Fairmont, San Francisco:
Cabell L. Moseley Peter F. Barry
Vincent P. Ingram Fred H. White
John R. Mitchell Blanton J. Brown
George H. Quinn Henry H. Werblow
John S. Cooke Joseph Berliavsky
John M. Tenny Walter V. Noplak
Hugh A. McDonald Richard L. Merrick
Field Clerk Maurice L. Brennan, so we are informed by Mr. Lampret, Chief Clerk HQ, Western Department, has already departed on a transport.”

Ted Zimmerman was one of the twenty-six men chosen to proceed to Camp Fremont, California from Camp Lewis, Washington. All were given passes until reveille Monday, August 19th.
Zimmerman had been born in Oregon in 1893 and had entered the army in California at the age of twenty-four. At Camp Lewis he had been assigned to the 102nd Company, 26th Battalion, 166th Depot Brigade, but had applied for transfer to the Ordinance Department. He had been reassigned to receive a company of Negro troops under Lieutenant Perdis. On November 2, 1917 he had been ordered to report to the 116th Ordinance Depot Company. In August, 1918 he was at Camp Fremont ready to embark for Siberia.

At Camp Fremont the men were installed in floorless tents. They slept on Canvas cots and took showers in a building without any floor. It was quite different than Camp Lewis, but the men soon believed they would be leaving shortly. On the 25th, however, they were surprised when they again received passes. These passes were valid until midnight, August 28th. After that the men were required to remain in camp under guard.

A field inspection was conducted. Zimmerman’s unit inspected all ordnance equipment of the infantry detachments and replaced anything found defective. Routine duty continued daily until they left Camp Fremont at 8 am, September 2, 1918.

Y.D. Yates reported that his outfit was permitted visits to relatives and friends. Then it was organized into a provisional corps which was sequestered under guard.

Thousands of visitors were around the camp at this time. Soon the men were on trains, with blinds drawn, passing busy San Francisco’s Ferry Building. Guards were on every vestibule. It was like a spy movie. At the docks at Fort Mason more thousands of anxious friends and relatives circled the embarkation area. Finally the SHERIDAN moved out into the bay to anchor until after dark. Then she steamed out of the Golden Gate with all lights out.

Many other men have memories of those days before leaving. Roy Jeremiah had been born on a farm in Howell County, Mississippi in 1894. He had lost both of his parents as a young boy. He had gone to live with an uncle but “was unhappy and had the wanderlust.” When his uncle moved to Denver, Colorado, Jeremiah decided it was time to run away. He joined the army and was assigned to the 31st Infantry. He promised himself that he would see some of the world. He never expected to see Siberia, but the prospect of travelling was exhilarating. He recalled that on the morning they left San Francisco one of the boys was found dead in bed. He said, “No one knew what was wrong with him, so the burned the tent, and that was the last we ever heard of it.”

Lynn “Mac” McQuiddy had enlisted in the army on March 30, 1918 in Denver, Colorado on his twenty-first birthday. When he embarked for Siberia, he was young and carefree and eager for what might lie ahead. In later years he was to become a great booster of the Siberian Veterans’ Organization in California. He was considered a key man in that group and in VFW associations as well. Always eager to recall old friendships and make new ones, Mac later became known by families of Siberian veterans from one end of the country to the other.

McQuiddy recalled the secrecy which surrounded the start of the trip, the window blinds drawn on the trains and “the orders not to peep out.” He “had a hunch” they were off to Siberia. He said: “No mail could be sent unless it was censored…It took us most of one day to just get to Fort Mason, and for most of the afternoon we stood out there in the drizzling rain before boarding the transport. Then we waited a long, long time before ‘supper’ was served. When it was, it turned out to be a small potato and one slice of bread. When we got on the ship it was so overcrowded that there was no place to sit down and I was told to take a bunk at the extreme aft end of the bottom deck. This was right over the place where the twin propeller shaft went through the hull – ‘a hull of a place to sleep!’ considering the vibration and noise, but it was dark; there was only one low watt light where the ladder descended.”

Sam Liberberg was a likable soldier who made friends easily. He was used to the noise and clatter of a big city; he had not had much experience with life outside of Brooklyn, New York. Suddenly he found himself in California ready to go to Siberia.

Later in life, Liberberg became a BMT division conductor for the New York City Transit Authority. He rode the subways for some forty years until he retired in 1960. He did not “mind one iota” for he had spent so many days on the ocean to and from Siberia that subway travel looked good to him.

In Siberia Liberberg was with a machine gun Company. He remembered that after the men were selected for service they were placed in a separate camp within Camp Fremont.

He never will forget a talk he heard the day before he left for Vladivostok. He recorded: “We were assembled to hear a group of American women talk of their experiences as social workers in Vladivostok. They had worked amongst the Austrian prisoners, in the early part of the war; nearly all of the latter were professionals, i.e., doctors, lawyers, engineers, and skilled technicians. They had no recreation facilities. The women took along an assortment of athletic supplies for their use and went into the field and played games with them to help build up morale.”

Liberberg, and some of the others, wondered what kind of a war this was in which social workers tried to build up the morale of the enemy by going into the field and participating in games with them and by giving them athletic equipment.

Roy Coalson told of a “scare thrown into the embarkation plans” when some cases of typhoid pneumonia were found in Palo Alto and parts of the camp were quarantined. The theater and the YMCA were closed. The men wondered if this disease would affect their departure.
Coalson, born May 19, 1896 at Downey, Los Angeles County, California, had attended high school at Whittier, California for only one year and had entered the army in May, 1918. But he graduated forty-nine years later and today proudly had the certificate to prove it!

In October 1919, when he was discharged, he pursued his interest in motion pictures. In addition he had jobs which furthered an interest in landscaping and gardening. His health was poor, and he found himself in and out of V.A. Hospitals for some years. Nevertheless, he reported that he reenlisted in the army in 1941 and was active in World War II. He said: “first stop was Hickam Field in Hawaii in 1943, then ten months on Christmas when I found myself on the Berlin Airlift in August 1948. Later I was in Japan and finally, in 1952, was returned to the States.”

Coalson was stationed at Eglin AFB in Florida and then went to another base in New Mexico where he stayed for seven years before being stationed at Almendorf AFB in Alaska. He was at the latter base when he retired from the U.S. Air Force on September 30, 1962.

But back in California, forty-four years earlier, Coalson requested a forty-eight hour leave from Camp Fremont so he could return home to visit his mother once more before leaving. The lieutenant told him it was impossible. “I couldn’t get a pass for myself at this point,” the lieutenant said shaking his head.

Coalson had to be content with a twenty-four hour pass which gave him leave until August 27, 1918. In a letter to his mother he expressed his disappointment about not seeing her and said: “Now Momma, don’t worry any about me on this trip for I will be all right, and I will write as often as possible. I don’t think we will be gone very long – nine months or a year at the very most.”

He said that there had been great excitement when they had been assigned to the provisional companies earlier and had been told they were going overseas. He wrote: “I had furlough in July, and had gone home then. On the way back I stopped at Santa Barbara for a few hours at the place where I had been working – the American Film Company. Everyone was so wonderful to me I shall never forget it. They took up a collection as a farewell gift and it amounted to $24.00. That was a lot of money in those days and I sure was happy.”

He added: “The rank and file of our men did not know they were going to Siberia and when the troop train was loaded at Camp Fremont, many of the fellow were wondering whether we might pull onto the main line of the Southern Pacific and turn north at San Francisco; that meant across the Pacific to Siberia; or turn south which meant across the United States and the Atlantic to Europe.”

Rodney Sprigg, who had been born May 1, 1894 in the same house in which he still resides, was a local boy who made good. After attending schools in San Diego, he had graduated from the University of California in 1918 and promptly enlisted in the army. He said: “I thought The Great War was a free fight – nobody barred, anybody could get in. So, I was handed a Second Lieutenant’s Commission and was told to come ahead. I was very much illusioned when after the end of the war I found that President Woodrow Wilson’s high sounding declaration that we were fighting for the freedom of the seas and the self-determination of peoples meant that the freedom of the seas only applied to ourselves and our friends. The self-determination of peoples was our determination as to what type of government they should have.”

Sprigg did not know any of this when he was in California “ready to do his bit,” but he did know that he was “slated for Siberia” and that it was to be kept top secret.

On the other hand Otto Korn had not heard anything about Siberia, not even a rumor, while he was in camp. He received the news when he was enroute to Vladivostok. Born in Davenport, Iowa, Korn had left high school in his third year and had gone to Chicago in 1916. In 1918 he had entered the army. He became a Browing automatic rifleman of Company I, 27th Infantry, and said his training was with the old 8th Infantry of United States regulars while stationed at Camp Fremont.

Harold Rich and Willis Vincent both recall leaving on the LOGAN and remember the inoculations. Vincent said he heard “by the grapevine,” the week before leaving, that they were “off to the frozen north.”

Gabriel Robidart had been born in France and had come to the United States in 1912. He had joined the National Guard and had entered the United States Army in 1918. He sailed on the SHERIDAN after training at Camp Fremont. Being of foreign birth, he found he had respect for all people and therefore had little trouble getting along wherever he was.

John J. Budd of San Francisco recalled that it was Colonel Philip R. Faymonville who selected the men to go to Siberia from Ordnance Depot Companies in San Diego, San Francisco and Camp Lewis. Budd said: “He [Faymonville] was fond of athletics and selected mostly college graduates that could play baseball and basketball and had some dramatic ability. He overlooked fellow that were able to fix guns, so he had to get some real Ordnance Sergeants from the Philippines.”

Dwight Cone, who “hailed from the state of Washington,” had been in high school when he had enlisted on August 17, 1918 at the age of eighteen. He was on his way to Siberia two weeks later. At the time he thought he was en route to France by way of the Panama Canal.

Frank Galinski, who today uses the name Frank Gale, had been in Company F, 8th Infantry at Camp Fremont from May 10th. He had no idea where he was going and neither did most of the men in his unit.

William C. Boggs noted in his diary that they left September 2nd, Labor Day. Before leaving he wrote this note to his mother: “We will be leaving in a few days. If you don’t hear from me you will know that we are on our way somewhere…I will write as soon as I arrive at my new point of embarkation.”

When the men reached the docks, they saw the LOGAN and the SHERIDAN in the harbor. Naval guns were mounted forward on the LOGAN. The SHERIDAN had field pieces lashed on the forecastle and machines guns on the afterdeck. The docks were full of hundreds of relatives and friends waiting to catch one last glimpse of a loved one. They were waving and cheering frantically. Many were crying unabashedly. Sightseers were on the hills and on the docks. The sight was one of a great theater with the crowds cheering from the orchestra and balcony seats.
“Blue peters,” blue signal flags with white center squares, which announce a vessel will be sailing that day, were hung from the two old transports which were destined to take the men to Siberia.
Before the men filed aboard, they watched in amazement for hours as hundreds of other military men were paraded to the docks from one post or another. Finally all were checked, filed in line and marched up the gangplanks. This gave most a feeling of certainty. They were really off.
Hearts and heads were full of memories of home as the transports pulled away. These memories remain with many to this day.
Chapter XII

Leaving the States, September 1918

The men on the LOGAN and the SHERIDAN who left the States on September 2, 1918 had far more exciting experiences than those who travelled on earlier transports in August. They experienced two “battles” which were later facetiously called the “Battles of Hakodate and Otaru.”

Before they embarked the men had no knowledge of what lay ahead. They had been kept waiting in the sheds. They had been told not to leave the dock, not to send any messages whatever and not to post any letters. This secretiveness caused apprehension which was mixed with excitement. The men learned that there would be no smoking allowed on board and that “lights would be doused.” That, they thought, meant something.

“The submarine scare was on,” said Ralph Baggs. “That is why we had to proceed in darkness.”
As the men made their way to the decks, they found that the rails were crowded. “It was a sight we were to carry with us until we returned,” wrote David Moore in his diary, “for there were plenty of people waving to us from the dock.”

The LOGAN and the SHERIDAN moved out into the bay at 4 pm and anchored there until darkness set in. Then the men were ordered below deck. They resignedly made their way inside to roam around, eager to see new things that “any landlubber will discover on a transport.”
Dice and money appeared almost at once as many men played the old army game of chuck-a-luck. Finally at about 9:30 pm the transports left the harbor.

William Dillingham, who had been born in Los Angeles in 1894, was attached to Co. F, 31st Infantry. He said they pulled through the Golden Gate in darkness looking through portholes to get one last fleeting look of San Francisco. “We were leaving all memories, all things of our life, and home and loved ones in the good old U.S.A. My pal was actually in tears and said, ‘Bill that is the last time I will ever see home.’ I tried to cheer him, but two months later while in Spasskoe he died and I recalled that prophecy of his.”

More than one man had tears on his cheeks, not only the young lads “but the big strapping men as well.” That last look at the mainland as it faded into the horizon, even through a porthole, was a stirring one. Many wondered when they would ever see those shores again. The feelings of the men leaving the United States seemed to be more nostalgic than the feelings of the men who had left the Philippine Islands. “After all, one’s home is one’s home,” one man wrote.

Most men had never left America before and were full of an odd sense of loss. They wondered what it would feel like to travel for days on water, never seeing a new living thing. They wondered, too, what might happen thousands of miles away from the only country they had ever known. They wanted to “feast their eyes once again” on what they had seen and remember what they had heard before they pulled away for “God only knew how many days or months.”

As they headed out to the wide strange open sea, each man carried something no artist could capture on a canvas and something no camera could record. It was an individual picture full of personal memories with the smells and sounds each wanted to keep within himself and remember in the months ahead. As the men drew in their breaths and closed their eyes, squinting a bit, it was in the hope they might magically be able to recall it all sometime, somewhere, when they felt lonely or heartsick. Then they would dilate their nostrils and open their eyes and stare up at God’s sky, which was the same over all countries, and somehow they would try to feel at home again.

The transports proceeded slowly as they made their way out of the harbor. A man on the SHERIDAN recalled that as they were edging along a raucous voice yelled from another vessel, “What ship is that?” Fear “crept up many skins” when the SHERIDAN was long in answering.
Finally they heard the reply, “This is the Transport SHERIDAN.”
The men were tense until they heard the answer, “All right.”

They began to wonder if there would be trouble even before they left America’s shores. Ralph Baggs said that the submarine scare was so acute that they cruised in a roundabout course away from the normal ocean lanes. He said, “There was some talk of us having to land under fire when we reached Russian soil, but of course that proved to be pure bunk.”

When darkness came David Moore went below deck and lay thinking. It was around 9 pm when he suddenly began to feel the boat rock. He heard that old and mystifying sound of the rumbling of water. “I tried to relax,” he wrote, “but kept thinking that we were on our way and would soon be going through the Golden Gate. It was not yet congested in the room and I felt pretty lucky to have that time alone for there would be little room when the men all holed in.” As the night wore on, more weary soldiers arrived, sometimes one at a time and sometimes in groups. They climbed into their bunks and slept.

Many that night heard the water, felt the strange movement of the boat and dreamed strange dreams, dreams of water lapping at the beach in California, of wind whistling in Chicago on a windy night or of peace at sunset on a western ranch. They saw in sleep, and in daydreams, the kisses and the waves of loved ones. They heard bands playing farewell songs and listened for the cheers, and all these dreams were to the ever busy chug-chug of the transport engine. For many there was stark fear in what lay ahead. The first night was the hardest. It was so different from anything they had known before. But September 3rd dawned, and with it the men were awakened with: “Open up those portholes. Get those bunks made up. You eat breakfast in half an hour.”

In his diary David Moore wrote: “I crawled and partly fell out of my bunk and staggered to the porthole. What a funny feeling I had. How the boat rocked. I did not know what it was like to see nothing but water on every side, but it was then that I fully realized that we had put the United States behind us. I began to wonder when we would see her again. It was an empty feeling.”
By this time they wee about eighty miles out, and there was nothing but water, water everywhere. It was rough too, and “the old tubs dipped considerably.” Some of the men began to “feel funny” in a way that seemed different from any other feeling they had ever known. It was the beginning of seasickness.

Moore lay on the upper deck most of the day trying to hold down his stew. He was not the only one whose stomach was acting up. The first day out, three-quarters of the men were relieving themselves. It was a mess and the stench was unbearable.

One of the fortunate ones was Jesse Sale. He had heard about the horror of seasickness and had persuaded the doctor at camp to give him some of the popular Mother Sills Sea Sick Pills. Whenever he felt a little woozy he took one and they “sure helped.” Sale and others who were up and about tried to determine their course. Dwight Cone said he saw on the LOGAN’s log that the destination was Siberia.

The water was so rough that footing was difficult, discouraging many from hiking around the deck. Possessions began to roll and dip along with the men and their stomachs. Those who had only read of seasickness came to know the dread ordeal. One would have to experience it to know the feeling of utter desolation one gets when the awful nausea spreads like a vile wicked thing up from the toes to the mouths of man. It is a time when little concern is given to death; in fact one would almost welcome it it will end the awful, awful retching and nausea. More than one man prayed that somehow skipper would halt, if only for an hour. But the transports slowly rolled on. Those who were not sick fought off the stench which permeated everything. The smell and the sight of other mean “heaving good American stew into the wild Pacific put more and more down.” By September 5th most were sick. The old tubs continued to lurch and pitch, and the men continued to suffer.

Out of boredom those who were on their feet watched the water, the endless water. Jacobson noted in his diary that he was surprised to see a little sailing boat, the only other visible thing. Roy Coalson felt happy the day he was assigned to Headquarters as orderly.
I.W. Borda noted the condition of the food. He said they had two meals a day, served in three or more shifts. They had to eat standing up most of the time. The food, which was “bad at first,” became progressively worse. The bakers and cooks were bootlegging loaves of bread for a dollar each toward the end of the trip. About the only food served was a stew consisting of some meat, beans full of weevils and the whole amply garnished with cockroaches.”

The food was not the only thing the men complained about. One day Captains Fred Vieweg and Ken Roberts were in their cabin discussing conditions. Roberts berated the fact that the transport was armed with only 37-millimeter Vickers Maxims which were about as effective against raiders or submarines as a bag of fluff. There was not even a single crate of gas masks for the men who were sardined in the holds of the transports. Yet there was the continual fear of attack by German raiders. As Roberts was expounding on this, there was a sharp knock at the door, and Major Samuel I. Johnson stepped in.

“I heard those remarks about the gas masks.” he said in his crisp voice. “That is nothing. It is only the beginning. Later perhaps you will see things so stupid you will be speechless.”

Johnson knew whereof he spoke. Born Boris Ivanovitch Ignatieff, he had served as a colonel of the Russian Cossacks and had been a figure in the court of his Imperial Majesty, the Czar of all the Russians. But he had left his native land and in time had become plain Sam Johnson, American.

Some say that Johnson had not liked his duties as a Don Cossack of the Czar and had left to join the German army. When that had not satisfied him, he had joined the British army. Still unsatisfied he had left again and had joined the American army. An American sergeant, unable or unwilling to pronounce his Russian name, had told him it was “no name for an American soldier.” “From now on,” he had said, “We will call you Samuel I. Johnson.” The “I” was for his real last name.

Johnson was a fine rifle shot and reportedly a good wrestler. A good athlete and a superb horseman, he was daring, courageous and brave. Where he led, men followed.

Johnson loved battle and could seem to smell the smoke of it from afar. He had gone to Hawaii in 1893 to join the army, organized by the Committee of Safety, after the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani. By that time he had obtained his American citizenship. In Hawaii he had joined the National Guard and in time had fought with the United States Army in the battles of the Philippine Insurrection.

Johnson had no use whatever for “anything humdrum” and would do almost anything to get into the thick of things. Although he had reached the envious post of militia brigadier general, he had relinquished his commission and had become a private again when, in his rage, he had found that he was not being sent to Europe to fight in World War I. Stationed in Hawaii, he had decided that if he renounced his rank and started all over again in the States, he might have a chance to get into the fight. He never dreamed he would be sent to Siberia.

Johnson’s knowledge of Russian was perhaps the essential factor that put him on the Siberia scene. When he heard that he was to command three thousand men who were en route to Siberia, he just shook his head. He was going back to his native land as a stranger and an invader. But he did not mind. The assignment sounded like a great adventure and surely was something different. There was a job to do. He was an American now.

A man of strong character and determination, Johnson was both feared and loved. But some of the men under him wondered if perhaps he did not sometimes have nostalgic thoughts that made him wonder at the strange twist of fate that had sent him back to the land of his birth. He was heard to hum, on more than one occasion, an old Cossack song he had learned in his boyhood.

Years after his Siberian sojourn, Johnson passed away quitely in his sleep at the Fort Miley Veterans’ Hospital near San Francisco. His moment of death was unlike his life. As a soldier of fortune, he had taken part in unnumbered battle in uncounted wars.
The rewards of his military achievements, however, live on. Johnson was awarded nearly eighty decorations (including the Distinguished Service Cross of the United States) from many countries because of his military service in behalf of mankind.

On the transport to Siberia, when Johnson overheard Roberts and Vieweg talking, they knew nothing of his past. Nevertheless, Roberts and Johnson had a rapport almost at once. When Johnson picked a rough day to order the officers on deck for rifle practice, he came to admire Roberts the more. The vessel was rolling and tossing at the time. Any accurate shooting under such circumstances was pure luck. Captain Roberts was the first to admit this when he scored over Johnson, a man with a medal-winning rifle record. But the score, luck or not, impressed the Major. He was known to have a deep respect for fine shots and also for authors. Roberts was both.
Johnson was a man who demanded discipline and did not stop at an

y language to get it. Roberts described him as “short, flat backed, big muscled, high chested, swarthy and with a little black mustache, hair cut ‘en brosse’ and with the sharpest black eyes that ever were.”

Early on the trip Johnson told Roberts and Vieweg about his role of brigadier general of the Hawaiian Militia. “But nothing was happening in Honolulu,” he said. “So I resigned my commission and went to the States to get into training. I thought I would be recommissioned and sent to France where I could pot a few Krauts.”

The Captains were amazed. “You resigned your commission as a Brigadier General?” they asked.

“Yep,” came the reply. “I was not getting action and I wanted it. Then I was a Major again and told to go to Siberia where there are no Krauts; only a few relatives. You should complain about gas masks.”

Again the Captains were stunned. “You mean you have relatives in Russia?”

“A few,” Johnson told them. “Had three brothers killed by the Germans in this war. Another lives in Odessa. He was blinded by the Germans. My uncle was the Governor of Irkutsk. Before that he was Commander-in-Chief of the Russian armies. Jack London was going to put the whole fantastic story into a book, but he died.”

Apparently that was all Johnson wanted to impart. He left, slamming the door behind him. The men had been sitting in the Captain’s cabin.

On September 4th the weather was generally noted as “good.” They were 362 miles out. Diary entries show a continual “no land in sight.” The trip became a dull and endless one with records of weather condition and miles logged. Charles Dean noted that he had a “full day” on the 5th with inspection and drill and said he qualified in wigwag. This was quite an accomplishment as most of the men were seasick.

The slowness of the transports annoyed the men. An entry in Jacobson’s diary noted, “Keeping right up with the SHERIDAN.” This was amusing as the men on the SHERIDAN were furious at the LOGAN’s delay. The SHERIDAN had to go slower to keep the lagging LOGAN in sight.
Lynn McQuiddy, travelling on the LOGAN, noted that she was proceeding part of the way with only one propeller. Slow progress and fear of submarines made the men distraught. Soon still another fear developed. A member of the medical corps developed what was believed to be diphtheria. This resulted in the aft part of the ship begin placed in quarantine. The medical officers were not certain of the diagnosis, but they directed gauze masks to be worn and ordered throat inspection to be conducted twice daily. Later this was reduced to once daily, and the quarantine was finally lifted at the end of two weeks. The upper half of the deck was divided by ropes with guards to see that the men wore masks and stayed in bounds.

Ted Zimmerman said there were only two doses of antitoxin available in case of an epidemic, and both were on the SHERIDAN!

“What next,” thought the men. If they did not get hit by a submarine, or have to rescue their buddies from a sinking LOGAN, they might die of diphtheria. Then the diarrhea started, and there was the added thought of dying of ptomaine poisoning. The bad food had finally caught up with most of the men. The resulting mess was indescribable. The “head” could not accommodate the rushing of doughboys look for the “pots.” A new kind of mess and tench prevailed.

David Moore recalled that September 6, 1918 was his birthday. He had been born in Drayton, North Dakota in 1899. He wrote in his diary: “Gee if I could only describe how I feel. If the old LOGAN goes into the briny deep it would not bother me at all.” But he lived, and in the years that followed was able to tell of his fears on the LOGAN. Moore became a Base Commander of Post 49 and was active with the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts in later life.

On the LOGAN. day followed day with the inevitable diary notations of “no land in sight,” remarks about the endless span of water and disgust with the stew, stew, stew.

“I shan’t eat another spoon of food until I land,” one man said. But water was as bad, and not as sustaining. Finally the men resigned themselves to prayer and hope. Anyone who has ever really been seasick in heavy seas and who has not resorted to prayer is, in one way or another, most unusual. In spite of prayers, the stew continued to be served as the boat rocked and swayed. One doughboy says the stew was not like his mother’s at all. “It was different from any I ever had before. A horrible kind of difference. It was plain stew for breakfast, slumgullion stew for dinner and then plain stew for supper again.”

The wild dipping of the transports, as though they were hungry for a great drink of the Pacific, the stew, the card games and the endless vomiting and swearing continued hour after hour. Finally the water began to look glassy, and the men felt a strange sort of fascination in watching the bow of the boat as it plowed through the “glass” like a cutter. Ripples followed the slow course of the craft.

Into this strange state of sickness, roughness, depression, headaches, wobbly sea legs and wobblier stomachs came a beauty that would begin at eventide. Even the sick could not overlook it. Out there in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but sky and water, the glory of a sunset was breathtaking. The sun would slowly, slowly drop behind the great blue water line like a huge ball of fire, looking as though it were reluctant to say goodbye to that day.

Then dropping down, down, down, behind eternity it would finally disappear. It gave the men a strange feeling as though it were the end of something. In the process it became a beautiful soft red and, as the fire died, the red became pink. Then with dusk came the stars, and when there was a moon the whole world seemed to come to light again. It was a sight a man could not easily forget.

The men knew that there would be sunshine and a moon where they were going, even though that place happened to be Siberia. But ice, snow and cold would prevail there, and the soldiers shivered at the prospect. The doughboys would retreat into the warmth of the transport and play “Keep the Home Fires Burning” and “Wait Till The Boys Come Home” on the old Victrola. They had a feeling of strangeness. The sunset, the moonlight, the scenery and the awesome and plaintive wails of the songs were affecting them.

Sergeant Quigley told the men to have courage as they would have to spend only about fifteen or twenty more days aboard ship. The men yelled, “Hallelujah”. Then the Sergeant added, “That is, of course, unless we are held up by quarantine for a week or two longer.” The men groaned. They watched the bulletins that were put up daily.

The doctor was busy trying to cheer the men. When sick call was sounded, the doughboys would line up like limp puppets on a string waiting to be pulled. The doctor would laugh and say, “You don’t care if the old ship sinks or floats do you?” Then he would direct them to take a drink of water and lie down, saying they would soon feel better. Some did, and some did not. We find this interesting notation in David Moore’s diary: “I didn’t die after all and the next morning I managed to get to the mess hall and ate some slum, boiled spuds with their jackets on, a piece of hardtack and a cup of coffee to wash the taste of the stew away.”

On the 7th the weather became cloudy and stormy. The men continued to stare at the water when they were not busy with their duties. They were 1,109 miles out now, and everything was running smoothly. On the 8th the weather became worse. The sea was very rough with strong winds. Even the most hardy felt seasick again. “Choppy sea,” Dean wrote. “We are 1,350 miles, course now due west. Air beginning to crisp. LOGAN in view.”

By the 10th the weather let up a bit. The sun started to shine. It was here that Dean noted that there were rumors that “the LOGAN’s boilers are on the blink.”

The mileage out showed 2,003 on the 11th; seas were rough, weather cold. At this point most of the men realized it would be necessary to pull into some port for coal. This was necessitated by the LOGAN’s insistence that the SHERIDAN slow down so she could keep the SHERIDAN in sight. It was so rough on the 12th that only one company at a time could drill on the deck. Then came Friday the 13th; the transport crossed the 180th meridian about 12 midnight. There had been fine weather that day with strong cool winds but no waves, and the sun had shone.
Roy Coalson said, “We jumped from Friday to Sunday.”

“We are a little over half way now,” Jacobson noted.

Dean said, “It is rough. We have gone 2,433 miles. We are headed for a Japanese port. We go to bed Friday night and wake up Sunday morning.”

About this time Jesse Sale recalled: “I had regular chow for awhile then I got wised up and was put on the ship duty so I could get to eat with the ship’s crew. It was when we were about half way there. It was a hot job as I had to shovel coal round to the fireman, but it was worth it for the difference in the rations, and in the quarters I was put in.”

Now, instead of noting how far they had gone, the men were beginning to record the miles yet to go. On the 16th, it was 1,800 miles to Vladivostok. There were no waves. The sun was bright. Nevertheless, boredom was stifling, and the men itched to get ashore. The 17th, another good day, offered a little excitement when “the big guns” and the machine guns on the transport were fired. Nearly everyone was on deck to watch. At this point anything was an event.

By the 18th the SHERIDAN’s officers were damning the LOGAN for holding them up and wasting their coal. More than one man wondered what it would be like to be stranded with no fuel at sea. No land was yet in sight. There were 1, 357 miles yet to go. Everyone was waiting to pass the mark which would show them less than a thousand miles on the homestretch. The weather was “like a lagoon in the parks” with no wind. They had now travelled 3,647 miles from the States. Then came the 20th, and the mileage covered was 3,858, leaving 887 miles – less than a thousand to go. Everyone cheered.

It was on this day that Roy Coalson wrote to his mother saying: “We have been at sea for eighteen days…I guess I am having it easier than some as I am on special duty as headquarters orderly. I don’t have to do any drilling, etc. I think we will land at a Japanese port in a couple of days. I only hope that I can go ashore and give them the once over. If I do I will tell you about it in my next letter. You see we can’t write a great deal on account of censorship.

“Don’t send me any packages because I don’t think they can come through. You can send me two or three dollars if you want to. I am not very flush.”

Land was sighted at 2 pm on September 21st. At first it was just a vague outline of a mountain peak.
Someone yelled, “Land.” His shout rolled like thunder over the ship and brought the men running to the decks. Most of the men saw nothing.

“Land where? Who’s kidding?” they asked.

But there it was in the far, far distance. A mere dim outline extended just above the water. As the men watched, their eyes glued to the sight, the form began to grow and become more and more distinct.

“It’s Japan,” someone said. There was a roar, and everyone began to ask if they thought they would stop, and, if so, if they would get shore leave. Soon they sighted the beams of a Japanese lighthouse, and this warmed their hearts.

The transports’ travel at a snail’s pace had made the trip seem boring and endless. Suddenly there was new life. The men realized a stop was imminent. They would see people and land again, whether they got shore leave or not. Bets were laid as to whether they would get on shore, and if they did how much time they would have. Excitement was at fever pitch.

The LOGAN’s Captain had been sending repeated messages to the SHERIDAN insisting she slow down sufficiently to stay within sight. But he never, during the tedious three weeks’ voyage, replied to the SHERIDAN’s request to be told the reason for the painfully slow speed. It was worrisome to the officers on the SHERIDAN. They did not know if they would be called upon to rescue some two thousand soldiers from a sinking ship, or whether the LOGAN’s steering gear “had gone so completely to smithereens” that the SHERIDAN might have to take her in tow.
Ralph Baggs said neither idea was a happy one; more coal was being burned than had been expected. When the SHERIDAN’s officers first sighted land, they knew it meant Hakodate. They were determined to find out “what in Hades was wrong with the LOGAN” the moment they dropped anchor. The LOGAN’s refusal to give any reason for its slowness was mystifying. Baggs said that the men had heard that German spies had tangled fish nets in the LOGAN’s propellers, that one propeller was gone, that her boiler was broken, that bearings for her engines had inadvertently been left on the dock at San Francisco and that she was just falling apart and no one knew why.

The LOGAN was listing dangerously when she finally shimmied into the harbor of Hakodate and dropped her anchor two miles out.

Kenneth Roberts said no effort had been made by either the War Department in Washington or the American Expeditionary Forces in Vladivostok to notify the Japanese authorities of any details of the arrival of our ships, of their contents or of their destination. That failure, he said, was bad enough, but the events that followed the landing in Vladivostok were unimaginable worse.

Jubilation over the sight of Hakodate ahead apparently caused another error. No one had bothered to inquire about the availability of coal! The transports simply entered the port, in the middle of a rather small harbor, and dropped anchor on September 22nd.

The harbor was full of Japanese boats. They were propelled by a process called sculling. Sculling was performed by a person in the rear of the boat with a long oar standing four feet down into the water. The oarsman worked the oar with a backtwist of the wrist. These small boats appeared by the dozens. The men in them yelled and cheered when they saw the men on the first American transport ever to arrive in Hakodate. The doughboys yelled back in their joy at seeing other human beings again.

When the transport came to a halt, the whole city seemed to be gathered. The townsfolk took apples, candy, cake and “a liquid in a bottle” and sold the wares over the rail by means of a basket fastened to a rope. The men still did not know if they would get shore leave. They bought generously from the vendors “just in case they were doomed to stay on the transports.”
Leave was granted. Barges assembled to carry most of the enlisted men “to a day on the town.” About five hundred at a time were hauled over the water yelling and singing. They were eager to get their first glimpse of a “real Japanese town and real Japanese people.”

They found the people for the most part to be unclean but interesting. The kinds were like kids everywhere, following and watching and listening to a language they could not understand. The town was, as one man put it, “barbaric.” The public latrines consisted of a concrete ditch about twenty feet long and a foot and one-half wide and two feet deep. I.W. Borda said the ones he saw were already full to overflowing. One unfortunate soldier fell in, either because he was acting like a smart aleck or because he was drunk, probably the latter. His frightful plight resulted in immediate ostracism by his fellows. When he arrived at the waterfront for the sampan ride to the transport, none of the soldiers would allow him to ride in “their” sampan. The dilemma was finally resolved by putting a rope around his waist and towing him out to the ship.

Once in town some of the men immediately went sightseeing and climbed the hills to get a good view of the area. Others went to the nearest bar. In no time at all they overran the ships, stores, theatre, restaurants and buildings of interest. They seemed to come out of the very walls of the buildings. Liquor was plentiful. The men were exuberant at being on land again and did not seem to care what happened. They were thousands of miles from home, and “who would know if they let go?” Chaos resulted. Policing was completely inadequate, and the city was soon in shambles.
“One could hardly believe it, if they didn’t see it,” wrote one man. “It was a sight all right. Street cars were overturned, brawls and acts of lawlessness prevailed and at the height of the commotion it was learned that Hakodate had no coal! Shore leave was cancelled at once.”

Captains Robers and Vieweg were sitting in a Japanese restaurant “off the beaten track” when Major Johnson stormed in and told them to pay up fast and get back to the transports. Johnson said: “The quartermasters didn’t take the trouble to ask whether we could get coal in this dump. They just bulled in, trusting to luck to find it, and we thought they knew what they were doing. Nearly everyone on both ships had shore leave until midnight and now the quartermasters tell us there isn’t a lump of coal in Hakodate. We’ve got to hustle out of here and around to Otaru before a storm hits us. If we run into typhoon before the LOGAN is coaled and ballasted, she’ll capsize. Nothing can keep her afloat. She’ll blow right smack over, and there’ll be two thousand men trying to swim in the middle of a typhoon. Did you ever see a typhoon strike.

The men were convinced and paid their bill. Meanwhile Johnson told them to watch out for a scotch whiskey which was made in Japan and had the “bitched up label of Queen George.” He said that it must be “86% corrosive sublimate proof” because twenty-five hundred enlisted men “were stinko” fifteen minutes after they got to shore. “I never saw so many get drunk so fast.”
It did not seem especially noisy to the captains as they left the restaurant. They began to wonder if Johnson had been kidding them. But they had been in an offbeat spot. When they reached the town, the noise was deafening and the sights unbelievable. Men were creaming like Indians, yelling like wild men and drinking from bottles as they walked or careened. They must have put fright into the hearts of the inhabitants. All the men knew was that time was short. They wanted to see and feel all they could; they wanted to have full benefit of their leave. The “fun” had happened so easily. As soon as the men were free of duties, the Japanese began to ply them with liquor. “They seemed to think the Americans were a thirsty race,” one man said.

After that it was just one big joyous occasion for the men; brawl followed brawl. Later the shore leave was facetiously called “The Battle of Hakodate.”

According to L.D. Yates, the “sightseeing” was watched by one hundred Military Police. Officers had been briefed on their resistibilities, but very nearly all of the men on shore got drunk in spite of the vigilance. They staged a thirty-six-hour riot before they were safely back on ship.

Japanese police were withdrawn from the streets when friction developed, and “the whole roundup responsibility” was placed in American hands. Yates said it was the only occasion he had ever heard of where an officer was authorized to hit a soldier who refused to obey a command or who talked back. The disorder had reached such a degree that this severity had become necessary.

One man said: “Some of the men only had shore leave to 5:30, others to midnight. Most of the men were so ‘tight’ that some of the gang failed to be on board and others had to be carried aboard the boat to answer roll call.”

According to David Moore, “The officers in charge surely had some job rounding up the men and getting them loaded on the transports and the actions of some resulted in their riding in the brig the rest of the way to Vladivostok.”

The M.P.’s were not happy with their job. They were endlessly telling the men that all leave was cancelled. “Return to your ship at once,” they ordered over and over again. “There is no coal here. We sail tonight. Pass the word along,” they droned on and on.

The men, happy and befuddled for the most part, paid no attention. What did they care if there was any coal or not? They had to be herded like cattle. Helpless men were piled on handcarts and pushed to the waterfront.

William Chapman was not on this transport, although he reported later, “We had an international episode in our files for many months as a result of that stop.” He added, “Major Sidney Graves commanded one of the transports and Major Samuel I. Johnson, the other.

“Our soldiers had been cooped up in crowded quarters deep in the bowels of the ship for several months [sic],” Chapman reported, “and they were glad to get ashore, see some girls and do some exploring. Most of them were broke but there were coupons in the Fatima cigarettes they smoked and some of the soldiers passed them off as United States money. They bought all sorts of merchandise until some Japanese who knew our money found out. Then the fun began.”

Kenneth Roberts said the court-martials resulting from day’s diversion in Hakodate went on for weeks after the American Expeditionary Forces reached Siberia. “Eighteen Captains and Lieutenants were found guilty of conduct unbecoming officers and gentlemen and confined to their quarters until they could be returned to the United States and dishonorably discharged.”

Two court-martials noted in the archives under the dates of September 22nd, 23rd and 24th showed the punishment meted out to two privates. They were many more. One was “drunk and disorderly at Hakodate, and later at Otaru, and was known to have threatened to strike Sergeant Horace Howard with his fists.” He was dishonorably discharged and ultimately was confined for eighteen months at Alcatraz.

Another man was disciplined because he “behaved himself with disrespect toward Lieutenant Joseph Rice…by exhibiting marked contempt, indifference and insolence when Rice at several times ordered [him]… to remain quiet and stay in ranks.” This was only Charge One. In Charge Two the private was accused of behaving in an insubordinate way at Otaru. The indictment mentioned he was disrespectful to Sergeant Howard. In Charge Three he was accused of being drunk and disorderly in uniform and therefore of bringing discredit upon the military service while at Hakodate. He was dishonorably discharged, had to forfeit all pay and allowances and was confined at hard labor for two years. Because of his lack of military training and “in the light of so many other ases of the actions of the me at Hakodate and Otaru” it was deemed proper by the officers to mitigate the sentence in this case.

“But,” they insisted, “in so doing, it was not to be understood that the Reviewing Authority had not viewed the offences of the prisoner as grave and serious. The drunken debauch and disgraceful conduct of the prisoner on Japanese soil was a disgrace of the American uniform and a reflection on the Government which cannot be treated lightly.” The period of confinement was reduced to one year at hard labor at Alcatraz.

Without doubt there were many more men who found themselves on the rock pile with a dishonorable discharge just because of the few hours of exuberance in Japan.

Some of the men performed good deeds after they felt “high.” One was George Corwin. He had turned over some American money to an exchanger and had received sixty dollars in Japanese currency. His first stop after that was a “beer joint.” There he quenched his thirst and bought two extra bottles of beer to take along. He paid for them with “one of the strange pieces of Japanese money” and got so much back that he felt very rich and decided to share his wealth.
He found a place that sold fruit and bought huge quantities and a big basket. Then he went out into the street and started to yell to the kids who were lined watching everything.
“Here, catch,” he shouted.

It is doubtful that any of the children could understand what he said, but when he threw the basket full of fruit into the air there was an immediate reaction. He was able to throw it well as he had “a good right arm.” Later in life his arm stood him in good stead when he played golf regularly in the eighty’s. But back there in Japan he just threw with abandon.

“What a scramble there was,” Corwin said. “I have never forgotten it. Fruit was rolling all over the street, and the Japanese kids were screaming with delight and scrambling and grabbing; yes, even fighting for the loot.”

Other soldiers were doing other things, some not so nice. Jesse Sale told about a man in his outfit who got tight and went walking down the street with a Japanese. The Japanese, said Sale, “had to ‘wet’, so he just went and did it right there in front of everyone. The American couldn’t see such disrespect in front of women and children so he took his half-full bottle of saki and hit the Japanese over the head. Some said he died, but I never heard anymore about it.”

The M.P.’s were trying to round up the men. They hated their job, and the men hated the M.P.’s for trying to stop all the fun. A rope had to be thrown around a group of soldiers to haul them off the transport. Some said there was more liquor inside the guardhouse than on the outside.
It was dawn before the transports left the lights of Hakodate harbor behind them. Both ships were full of unconscious, nauseous, simpering, snorting, wheezing, limp American youths. Some were groaning, some laughing, some weeping.

Twenty men were missing. Apparently they had disappeared. A lieutenant and two military policemen were among those left behind to track the twenty down and conduct them overland to Otaru. Jesse Sale, always in the thick of things, was one of the men deputized as a guard. The men were rebellious, he said, and refused to rejoin the “stinking ships.” Without doubt they would have run off and escaped somewhere, anywhere, if they could have done so. But instead, they were herded into a train for the long overland trip.

“Just imagine over twenty drunken soldiers on a train,” Sale said, “and I had to help control those wildcats.”

Although there had been many a battle in the cafes and on the streets, the letters from the men are strangely silent regarding the happenings. Whether they feared censorship or were afraid of what the relatives at home might think about the escapades, is not known. A typical example was a letter from Roy Coalson to his sister in which he wrote simply: “Well we stopped at a Japanese port day before yesterday and I went ashore. I surely had a lot of fun…These are sure funny looking towns. I will tell you about it all after we get some place.”

The transports travelled close to shore after they finally left Hakodate on September 23rd. Those who were sober enough enjoyed the beautiful view. Huge green mountains towered one either side of the ships. Jacobson mentioned them in his diary, and added: “They say we cannot go ashore in the next port because so many came back drunk last night. There is always someone to spoil a good thing.” He noted, too, that it was warm and clean.
Boggs wrote in his diary that he witnessed “the prettiest sunset I ever saw.”

It was said to be about one hundred and fifty miles to Otaru. Everyone began to wonder if the fuel would hold out that distance and, if it did not, wheat would happen to the limping LOGAN. But Otaru was reached the next day. The men hung to the deck rails holding their caps and coats in the strong wind.

On the morning of September 24, 1918 the transports entered the harbor Otaru. Otaru had coal.
The city was as lovely to look at as Hakodate had been ugly. The houses, build along the mountain sides, gave “a quaint and lovely view.” The transports anchored inside a breakwater, and crowds of small boats encircled them. The townsmen with wares to sell were more crafty than those in Hakodate. They first sent up the empty baskets for the money; they sent up the wares.

Coalson noted that it had been a two-hundred-and-ten mile, twenty-four hour trip and that they were all eager to see the town. Most of the men had slept off the effects of “the bash in Hakodate.” They were ready to start out again when the transports dripped anchor about 7 am on the 24th.

All the officers and a small group of privates and non-coms were permitted to go ashore. It was generally believed that half would be allowed to go to town one day and the other half the next. There were many cheers, and soon the sampans were taking the first contingent to the city. Those with shore leave took in the sights, had dinner and supper and “in general raised hell.”
The men soon forgot the lectures on conduct and tried “to drink up all the liquor in Otaru.” Fights resulted. There were brawls with anyone who seemed to disagree “with anything any Yank said.”

Children, apparently allowed out of school to watch the strange new creatures from another land, followed the men in droves and crowded the eating places. Some men were annoyed and started “to yell at the kids.”

Others said, “Hell, they are just kids, leave ’em alone.”

The “kids” were calm about the whole matter and could care less who yelled as long as they could continue to stare and listen.

The situation in the city became wild. In one of the fights a policeman was killed. To kill a policeman was a most serious offense. The local authorities lost no time in wiring a complaint to Tokyo. Pandemonium resulted, and the officers on the transport were immediately alerted.
Meanwhile, a typhoon struck suddenly. Many did not know what was happening. Those on shore wondered how they would get back to the transports or how they would live through the wild devastating wind and rain that fell so suddenly. Those on the transports wished they were on “the comparative safety of shore.”

On the 24th some of the men had taken a train trip to the provincial capital of Sapporo. When they returned to Otaru, they witnessed a sight that one could hardly describe. Roofs were gone on many of the houses, and a high wind was still raging. There was such devastation and bewilderment among the local inhabitants and visiting soldiers that the whole panorama seemed almost unreal. The soldiers realized that there was no chance of getting back to the ship that night.

The officers and military police saw it would be impossible to round up the legion of men and get them back on the transports. They began to look for shelter for them.

Some men were corralled in a Japanese theater where they slept on mats which the Japanese used for seats. When they arrived the men took off their muddy shoes and looked around. The balcony and stage were filled. No one was quiet although it was dark. The men began to throw their shoes in baseball fashion to and from the balcony. Many a man was hit unceremoniously in the face with a muddy shoe. When morning finally arrived, they were all lined up in streets deep with mud. The officers had secured some small apples and slices of bread, and each man was given a small ration. This was their breakfast. Then the barges began to take them back to the transports.

Other men had slept in a hotel in town. They had enjoyed the novelty of sitting on the floor for a Japanese breakfast which was better than the apples and bread their buddies were eating in the street. Goldfish swam in the pretty pool in the court, but cross crows in the garden cawed at them.

When it was time to leave, the men looked for their shoes which custom had required them to remove before they entered. One huge hulk of a fellow with about a size twelve shoe was walking through the mud in his stocking feet. He was holding a pair of size six shoes in his hand and using obscene language. Everyone was laughing, and this made the soldier madder than ever. He cursed louder and clearer.

At first only a few of the men knew what had happened. The shoes had been lined up outside the building. When the winds raged and the roof blew off, some soldiers made a hasty exit grabbing the first pair of shoes they thought would fit. The big one, coming down later, was last and found only a Lilliputian pair left for him.

He had stormed and threatened the proprietor of the place, but the owner simply kept saying, “So sorry,” and bowing, which seem to incense the American even more. An officer was called, but no one could calm the doughboy. He finally took the long trek through the mud vowing loudly to take vengeance on the man who stole his shoes.

After “the apple and bread breakfast,” the men were lined up and marched through the mud to a barge which was towed to the transports. It was still cloudy and stormy. They reached the boat just in time to avoid another storm.

The typhoon had struck the transports and pitched them suddenly and fiercely. The LOGAN, whose anchor began to slip, gradually drifted to the breakwater. The Japanese peddlers were still in the harbor in their small sampans when the storm struck. They were no longer selling apples and candy; they were fighting for their very lives. One man’s boat broke loose and lurched toward the breakwater full speed. Soon the rolling waves were dotted with bright red apples. The Japanese clung to the boats as long as they could and then went screaming into the water. Life belts were cut off the transports and thrown to them. Most of the rescue attempts were in vain.

The LOGAN, with dragging anchor, was blown broadside onto the breakwater. Horrified, the men feared disaster. Some of the Japanese watercraft were caught between the ship and breakwater wall. Luckily many of the Japanese were hauled on board the transports. Others were able to scramble onto the breakwater wall for safety.
In his diary Jacobson noted that it was the worst weather he had ever seen. “Awful and rough,” he said. “I though we would break to pieces on the rocks. We were bumping up against our pier and expected the sides of the boat to cave in. The wind was so awfully strong.”
The SHERIDAN rode out the storm. Her engines had been started to take the strain off the anchor chains.
Everyone on each transport was worried mainly about the LOGAN and what would happen to her if the winds ripped her apart or if the solid wall should tear her to pieces. Disaster seemed likely.
“Imagine,” said one man on the SHERIDAN, “what it would be like to see your buddies floating out there, grotesquely on the terrible sea, watching them die for want of salvation. And yet there would be little we could do at such a time.”
Fear rode the transports until the LOGAN slid in against the breakwater and lay stranded but fortunately intact. Relief was manifest. The LOGAN was loaded with explosives. Had the transport crashed against the solid wall, more than likely there would have been one great explosion. The men on the SHERIDAN would have seen the last of their friends of the LOGAN.
The stranding of the LOGAN, however, did not happen quickly. It took hours before she was safe. Despite an attempt to turn, she had been blown broadside against the cement breakwater projection and remained there for hours making angry noises.
Lynn McQuiddy was an eyewitness to the LOGAN’s plight. He said: “Our closed, and sealed with canvas, hatches saved those below deck, but the main deck was flooded repeatedly. Wind like that prohibits one from seeing, or even hearing and breathing. From the officer’s deck I glimpsed a 45 automatic colt threatening me because I did not get into the hatch fast enough.”
Along with the worry about the LOGAN, there was deep concern for the Japanese who were still on the rolling seas. Major Johnson called for volunteers to man a lifeboat, and oil bags were thrown out. The lifeboat reached one of the fishing boats just before it sank.
The storm left as quickly as it had come. At 6 pm, at high tide and under its own power, the LOGAN swung away from the breakwater. There was some difficulty releasing the nose of the ship which was held fast to the breakwater. According to Zimmerman, no damage resulted.
The night wore on, and the exhausted men heard their comrades carousing until morning.
In the interim, Major Johnson had received a wire from the American Ambassador. Johnson was asked to use all possible tact and diplomacy to bring the affair of the killing of the policeman to a satisfactory conclusion since the Japanese were our allies. He was directed to accomplish this task before the transports sailed for Vladivostok. It was quite an order under the circumstances. But Johnson immediately went ashore and paid calls on the Commanding General of the Japanese troops, the Mayor, the Chief of Police and other officials.
After strong efforts were exerted by Johnson, the affair was finally settled and friendly relations restored. A wire was sent to the American Ambassador to that effect. Johnson was so pleased with the fortunate outcome that he invited all the dignitaries to dinner on his transport.
The evening after the storm, about fifteen high-ranking Japanese officers arrived at the transport. “They wore their gaudy uniforms and were all highly decorated each with several medals and crosses clear across the chest.” Johnson wrote.
“We gave them a splendid reception,” he continued. “There was an excellent dinner with an orchestra. After dinner we had movies, boxing and wrestling matches. All in all it was a most pleasant evening and the Japanese officers were so pleased that, after exchanging several banzais, the Japanese General invited me and fifteen of my officers to a return dinner ashore the following evening.”
Johnson accepted and then began to worry. Not one of his officers had a decoration. They were mostly young officers just out of West Point of Officers’ Training Camp. However, he had with him a box of fifty athletic medals which he had won for pistol and rifle shooting, swimming, gymnastics, rowing, bicycle riding and other sports.
“A happy thought struck me,” he said. “I selected for this party fifteen best appearing officers and called them into my cabin. Then I opened my box of medals and told them to help themselves in selecting at random two or three medals each and to pin them on. I took what was left. We all looked fine.”
The men went ashore and were escorted in high style by troops and bands to a banquet hall. There they had “wonderful things to eat and drink” with geisha girls playing, singing and dancing for them. All went well until coffee time. Then, as the were standing about the room sipping coffee and talking, Johnson noticed a small Japanese official, who spoke English, going from one officer to another holding a monocle to his eye as he examined Johnson’s athletic medals.
The usual stolid Johnson became nervous and watched intently to see if there would be an unpleasant scene. The Japanese officer continued with his inspection. When he reached Captain Kenneth Roberts, he said: “What a wonderful lot of medals you men have. But tell me please why is it that nearly all of them have the name Samuel I. Johnson engraved on them?”
Johnson held his breath.
Roberts seemed taken aback, and then said, “In our country it is the custom to engrave the name of our commanding officer on the decorations and as Major Johnson is our commanding officer, his name is on them.”
Johnson sighed in relief. He realized that Roberts had averted an incident. He thought they had gotten away with the ruse.
Shortly thereafter, the party broke up. The men went back to the transport under an escort of honor.
However, news of the incident reached Honolulu and was published in a local paper. The Japanese Consul at Honolulu sent a copy to Tokyo. Johnson did now know it then, but that incident resulted in an initial refusal by the Japanese General in Siberia to award a decoration to Johnson. The Japanese Government had misunderstood the display of medals as an act of ridicule. Apparently things were eventually straightened out. Johnson later added the “Order of the Rising Sun” from the Japanese Emperor to his large group of medals.
As for the men, most of them were on the transports on the 25th. Coaling was begun at 9 am that day. It rained while the coal was carried on, but later the weather was warm and pleasant. On the 26th coaling was resumed and continued through the 27th. A two-masted schooner was towed in on the 26h. It had been damaged in the typhoon. Another storm came up during the coaling causing the barges considerable trouble. When the storm became severe, a ladder was thrown down to the barges. In spite of this, Japanese were blown off one barge and disappeared into the raging waters. Fortunately some were saved, but they required hospitalization. Officers on the transport emphasized their orders with draw automatics to maintain order under the chaotic circumstances.
The coaling ended on the 27th at 6 pm. After having taken on eight hundred tons of coal, the LOGAN, with SHERIDAN right ahead, left Otaru for Vladivostok. It was pleasantly warm. The men were eager to get to their destination point.
When the transports left, the shore was lined with cheering men and women. Apparently the tense incident of the shooting of the policeman was forgotten except perhaps by his won family or close friends. It looked as though the whole town was out waving. The Americans sailed for Valdivostok amid the shouting of banzais and saluting by the big garrison guns.

On the 28th they were sailing on the Sea of Japan. It was clear and cool. The green mountains and distant outlines of land had vanished. The men were busy again counting off the miles and the hours until they would arrive at Vladivostok.

Their first view of Siberia came at about 1 pm on September 29, 1918. It was 4:30 pm when they finally arrived at the harbor. The weather was clear and warm. The view ahead was awe-inspiring. The men were eager to get ashore, but landing was delayed until the next day. They saw “a lot of German prisoners working on the docks” and were surprised when these men waved to them as though they were all buddies.

“I don’t get it,” said one man. “We come to Siberia, Russia, which is an ally, for what reason God alone seems to know, and our enemies, the Germans, wave and yell ‘hello’ to us. What a crazy world.”
They were going to find out how “crazy” the whole situation was when the finally disembarked on Siberian soil.

Men from the Philippines, who had not been sent out in August were herded on the USAT WARREN when it started its second trip to Vladivostok on Friday, September 7, 1918. The men went aboard on the 6th, but the WARREN stayed inside the breakwater until Saturday morning, the 7th.

Paul Chesebro, born in Rushmore, Minnesota in 1893, had moved to California in 1899 and attended schools there. He had travelled to Oregon and attended that state’s university in 1913 and 1914. In 1916, he had joined the Medical Department of the Army. He had served in the Philippines before being sent to Siberia.

Before leaving on the WARREN, Chesebro wrote to his parents, “We were moving out when I awoke on the 7th.” The next day the water was so rough, he “fed the fish.” He did not eat any supper whatever and was glad to be in bed at 6:30- pm. He stayed there until Tuesday morning, eating “only an orange, a few cookies and a cup of tea.”

Chesebro said he shared second-class cabins with Sergeants First Class Steigerwald and Rice from the Field Hospital. They had two rooms and ate first-class as “there was not enough of us to start a second class mess.”

Chesebro reported that it was chilly and cloudy with a cold north wind blowing. He wrote home: “I am keeping my diary pretty well but missed Sunday and Monday because of seasickness. We passed Formosa on Monday morning but all I saw of it was a few glimpses through the porthole when I didn’t feel too sick to get up and look out. I couldn’t sit up straight because my stomach would go up into the air when the ship went up and then it would sink into my backbone when the ship came down. The safest thing to do was to lie in bed on my side and make the best of a bad proposition.”

Alan Ferguson told his parents, in a letter written on the WARREN, that he was informed that all letters would be censored. He had been writing daily. When he heard of the censorship, he knew much of what he had written would be cut out. So he retyped everything into one letter including only that material which might “please the censor.”

The WARREN made a fairly quick and uneventful trip if one is to judge by those who had stories to tell and who travelled on this transport.

Meals were served at 6 am, 12:30 pm and 6:30 pm. The routine between meals was about the same as on other transports.

On September 11th the men saw the southernmost Japanese island at about 5 pm and noted several fishing boats.

Paul Chesebro recorded that “there was a simply beautiful sunset and the sea is much calmer, but with a strong north wind.” He added that it was by then much colder but that no heavy clothes had been needed up to that point. On the 12th he said they were in sight of Korea and had been all morning. The wind continued to grow stronger and colder.

On Thursday, September 12th, the transport slowed down so it would arrive in Vladivostok on Saturday morning. They had had a quick seven-day trip and were in Siberia ahead of the men from Camp Fremont, California who had left five days earlier. In fact, they would find that they would be in Vladivostok for fifteen days before the arrival of the men who had left the United States of September 2nd.

On the 13th, the sea was calm. The transport was making six knots. They were one hundred thirty miles from Vladivostok by noon time. Everyone was anxious. That night the men were busy packing and cleaning equipment and getting out their “heavy underwear for the icicles” they thought they would find in Vladivostok.

Finally on the 14th the men hooted and cheered as the others had before them. They were awed at the sigh they saw.

They spotted friends on the docks and saw much that made them eager to be there. But they, too, had to wait until they were given permission “to set foot on terra firma.”

Chapter XIII
First View of Vladivostok

The men who traveled on the WARREN’s first trip were the first to view the city of Vladivostok. This took place at 2 pm on August 15, 1918. The CROOK pulled up at 11 pm the same day, the MERRITT at 7 am on August 16th.
When the first doughboys arrived, they found themselves at the doorstep of a strange country about which they knew precious little. Most of them recalled only what they had read, or seen, in old picture books. They believed Siberia to be a vast barren land of ice and snow, a last outpost of civilization used mainly as a depository for political and criminal prisoners. They felt sure that all inhabitants would have long black beards, stand six-foot tall and have wild ferocious looks. They wondered how they would be able to keep the howling wolves at bay until they reached the barracks that they were positive Uncle Sam would provide.
Apprehension was mixed with curiosity, always a component part of the makeup of American youth. Their fears were mixed with wonder as they tried to imagine what this land would hold for them. More than one doughboy sniffed the air. Some men used only their eyes and ears. Others, approaching an unfamiliar spot, instinctively inhale. Their nostrils quiver a bit in an attempt to indelibly record the special atmosphere of each new place.
Those more eager for “the whys and wherefores” than for the sense of smell kept asking why they were there. No one seemed to have an answer. Were there perhaps some great changes in the Eastern or Western Fronts of the war about which they new nothing?

Would some great battle be fought here on Russian soil? Most of them fervently hoped so. This was a patriotic age when men thought first of “doing our bit for Old Glory.” They had ultimate faith in the power of God and Uncle Sam.

Would prisoners, about whom they had heard so much, be wild?
Would the Russians be friendly to them now that revolution had shaken their land?

Question after question assailed the men. Their wonder and their fears were only allayed by one sure factor. They were secure in the belief that once on land, whatever else greeted them, they would get a good meal and comfortable barracks which had been prearranged by the United States’ government.
The long confining trip across the Pacific was over. But it was a trip which would always recall days of seasickness, crowding, storms, and day-by-day discomforts. The men would get over their wobbly legs and their queasy stomachs now. They would have space and comfort of a sort ahead when they disembarked. Or so they thought.
The fog was heavy on August 15th as the men jammed the rails of the first transport to arrive. They strained to look at the view ahead.
Most of the men were tense and excited, but they could see little through the fog. About 10 am the impenetrable curtain lifted, and the glory of the sun matched the view which they faced. Almost in a single instant, the men had their first sight of the “Lord of the East,” Vladivostok.
The whole trip over the seas had lead dramatically toward this moment. The vision ahead was like a mirage. Through the atmosphere they saw, with sudden revelation, an incredible city deposited on the water’s edge. It rose to fantastic heights in layers of colored homes interspersed with snatches of green. The fog had but added effect to the now clear picture.
Other men on future trips were similarly impressed. The scene was breathtaking in any season and at any time of day. The onion-shaped church domes with their double crosses glistened in the morning sun. In the afternoon the sun played on the domes and made reflections which picked up the colors of the buildings. At dusk there was a strange Dickensian look at the dimly lit city; but the church domes belied England and bespoke Russia.
Otto Korn expressed his first impression: “When we viewed the city for the first time from Golden Horn Bay I could think of only three words: quaint, picturesque and beautiful. But later it proved to be something like an oil painting – the farther off you stand the better it looks.”
Instead of seeing a wild unkept land, the men, wide-eyed with excitement, saw that this was really a commercial city. The hills ascended like a great stadium up and up into the sky. The whole picture of vivid house tops, and what seemed to be green gardens, gave a fresh and bright appearance. The snow-white barren stretches they had expected were not to be seen. Never in their wildest dreams had the men imagined such a pleasant sight.
The fairy-tale quality of the city, with sparkling domes, give an eerie unreal look to the whole. The men from the long flat ranches of the west, and those from the concrete jungles of the cities, stared as one, unbelieving. Later they were to discover that the glamor and quaintness would disappear in stench and filth and in the worst clutter most of them had ever seen.
One man said that it was in startling contrast to the barren wasteland he had expected to find filled with aborigines. “And there wasn’t a wolf in sight, or in earshot!”
The trip into dock was always a wonderful experience to the men who arrived. The first group were greeted with torpedo destroyers, the USS BROOKLYN, the Imperial Japanese Navy and others waiting to escort them in civilized style. There were British ships in the harbor too, and the men aboard were waving and shouting welcome.
Those who had prayed for food and shelter in what they believed would be a barbarous town went wild with joy when they saw this great city and friendly-looking people lining the wharves.
There were uniforms of many nations, and flags of all kinds fluttered in the breeze. The men were sure now that their first days would be like a vacation in a new and wonderful land.
Amidst all the beauty there was one unsightly view from deckside. At the waterfront supplies were piled high in disarray. Most were rotting. Great stores of supplies seemed to have been heaved up by a mighty wave on the doorstep of the city. Frowns furrowed many brows as they saw this heap of waste. But wonder was short-lived for there was too much else to see ahead.
First there would be the actual docking, then the disembarking. Then would come trips when the men could see the strange and enormous city. As they prepared to dock at one of the stone wharves which h nearly encircled the harbor, bewilderment grew. When the first men arrived, the weather was “hot with a capital H.” Still in khaki, the troops had been complaining bitterly about having no suitable clothing for the freezing Siberian weather. Now, upon arrival, they were wiping seat from their foreheads and were glad to have on light outfits. The sea breezes had kept them comfortable en route, but when they dropped anchor the onrush of Siberian heat wave reached them. In time, they would find out that Siberia can be as hot in summer as it is cold in winter.
The men would learn that when the sun went down their light khaki outfits would not feel as comfortable as they had in the heat of the day. Nights in Siberia were cold, even in the summer.
The band on the BROOKLYN “played for all its worth,” and the sailors and marines sang the most popular songs as each transport appeared. Emmet Hoskins of the BROOKLYN recalls that they played and sang “Hail, Hail
The Gangs All Here,” over and over again.

The doughboys felt wonderful to be able to see their comrades of the other services in Siberia. The men on the BROOKLYN hailed them and sang louder than ever. The strains of music could easily be heard when the first transports edged into dock. More and more bands and songs greeted them as they came nearer and nearer to shore. One man said it was like one great big Fourth of July celebration “with nothing missing but the fireworks.” As each transport arrived it received the same welcome.

There ahead of the Americans was “a wild mixture of humanity,” perhaps the wildest mixture the men would ever see. There were Chinese coolies by the docks, dirty, heavily-wrapped peddlers, Russian gentlemen in their eastern garb and their ladies in furs, French marines, British sailors and soldiers, Czecho-Slovaks and many others.

Among the friendly-looking faces the soldiers could also note an odd assortment of feet and footwear. There were the shiny boots of the Cossacks, the fashionable boots of the elite, the muddy well-worn boots of the peasants. Some feet were “as naked as the day they were born.” Still others were wrapped in rags and twine.

Expressions of the people varied too. The Cossacks, tall and handsome, had great hats high on their heads and broad self-sufficient smiles. The peasants stared unbelievingly, wondering what these strange new soldiers were doing on their land. Some seemed stunned. Old men with saddened, weather-beaten faces gave the impression of having the wisdom of the ages and of having sat there at that very dock for centuries. There were little children with great solemn faces. They were dressed mostly in rags; some had uniforms. There hardly seemed to be a teenager in the lot; the crowd was either aged or very youthful. When they arrived the men did not know that all able-bodied boys were in one army or another. All but the very young and the very old had a maturity that belied their age. One man said: “The whole outlook gave me a strange and odd sort of feeling. It was the same soil, the same sun, and the same beautiful day one might find anywhere in America, but the buildings and the people all seemed so different, not just foreign, but as though we had somehow stepped back, back into another century.”

When Lester Head arrived, he had a strange but favorable feeling. “The people were not all the great giants I had expected they would be, nor were they all dark. There were blonds and brunettes with all kinds of complexions and they came in all sizes and shapes.”

Unfortunately, the first troops had to satisfy their curiosity temporarily with a view from deckside. They were doomed to stay on the transports until the next day.

As the men of each new group arrived, they too were excited by the view and eager to see more. Each group’s arrival was feted and drew a crowd. Later arrivals had the added joy of seeing other doughboys waving to them.

Chapter XIV
The RRSC in Vladivostok, August 1918

Before any of the AEFS arrived in Vladivostok, the Russian Railway Service Corps was back from Japan. The corpsmen had had time so survey the situation. After men of different service units arrived in Vladivostok, the Siberian Sojourn became the story of many participants.
The city was larger than most of the men had expected. The RRSC men had felt they would probably be happier in Vladivostok than they had been in Japan.

Right from the beginning they especially liked the “real beds” which they were given in the schoolhouse where they were quartered. They like the location too, for it was right next to the home of the American Counsel, John K. Caldwell.

The long months of boredom, waiting and watching were now at an end. The men were eager to get to work although conditions seemed to be vastly different than reports had indicated. There was a less warlike atmosphere and more high-living than they had dreamed possible.
When the American Expeditionary Forces arrived, the Railroad Corps was placed under the jurisdiction of Lt. Colonel G.H. Williams, the Commanding Officer of the 27th Infantry. He ruled on all requests for the use of the Corps.

Later the corpsmen were distributed along the Trans-Siberian line as far west as Omsk. They assisted in the movement of the Allied troops and supplies, in the evacuation of Bolshevik forces by Kolchak and in the transportation of Czecho-Slovak contingents through Siberia. In addition, they guarded tunnels, bridges and depots.

In spite of all the RRSC assistance, the Soviet Government continually regarded the RRSC as a subversive agency. Major General William S. Graves, Commander of the AEFS, wrote that the Corps devoted its time to railroad matters and that Colonel Emerson was as disinterested in political squabble of the Russian factions as any man he had ever known.

Before the RRSC started to work, it discovered that the equipment that had been unloaded the previous December was nowhere to be found. The men decided it must have been shipped west to European Russia. It was necessary to order duplicate replacement equipment which was later installed on the railroad.
At first there was nothing much the corpsmen could do except to visit friends in Vladivostok, to get to know the people and to enjoy the sights on the bathing beach.

“I found the people very friendly,” Turner said, “and there was good food available at the cafes and night clubs. There was also good entertainment at the clubs which stayed open until the wee hours of the morning. Band concerts in the parks were extremely popular and on holidays and weekends they were well attended and the people all seemed very friendly.”

Whitehead also found the people pleasant. He said that Siberia was the way he imagined America to have been a century before. “Of course,” he added, “I know it was actually more advanced for they had a few modern conveniences such as a few electric plants in the large cities and a few telephones. Also a few of the large buildings had running water which was pumped from wells into tanks located in the attics of the buildings. But by and large the people had very little and had small reason to feel kindly, but I never heard a single cross word or complaint, and there was very little crime at the time we were first there, in spite of the fact that extreme hunger prevailed and the people were crowded because of so many refugees. Vladivostok had swelled from its usual sixty thousand to some two hundred thousand.” He summed up his thoughts, “Yes, I like the people and thought they were more like Americans than any other foreign people I had ever met.”

Later the RRSC moved to naval barracks and found that the Canadians occupied one of the buildings and the American Red Cross another. The corpsmen wired the buildings for electric lights, fixed motors, repaired water pipes and installed showers and steam heat so everyone was “pretty comfortable but nothing fancy.”

Porter Turner wrote home that when the AEFS arrived, he believed that “the folks in the States” would be reading of their actions in the vicinity as “there is considerable fighting to be done here.”

He estimated there were one hundred thousand armed German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war roaming about. He felt the prisoners should be confined again. This confinement, he judged, would take several thousand troops and would be largely dependent on the Americans and the Japanese, with the help of several thousand Czecho-Slovaks. The latter, he said, were all “smart looking men.” He added, “A person can’t help but admire them for what they have started and the organization they have formed.”

“We are making quite an American city of Vladivostok,” Turner wrote. “I was in a cafe yesterday for dinner and there were about thirty Americans eating. I saw no other nationality except the waiters. There are lots of Chinese here doing common labor; they are the dirtiest people I ever saw. When you pass them on the street you need a gas mask for the smell is simply awful.”

Turner was talking about the Chinese coolies, not about the Chinese soldiers whom they came to know and admire later.

The Chinese coolies were employed for just about everything. In the months ahead the Americans never ceased to be amazed at the feats of these strange little men with the abominable smell. They had about the greatest physical strength the Americans had ever seen.
One of the coolies’ daily jobs was to collect excreta from homes in the city. They also drew the drinking water from the various public wells in the town to offer for sale by the bucket. The combination was not appreciated by the Americans.

Some of the Chinese could carry such heavy loads that it was cheaper to hire them than to run a truck, and gasoline was hard to obtain. They were also good carpenters and could do a masterful job with crude cutting tools.

Later, when the AEFS landed, the doughboys found the coolies about the same as the corpsmen had.

“Sometimes we had to threaten them to keep them away from our garbage cans,” Mark Beaugham said. Beaugham was from Washington. He had been offered an exceedingly fine job there to manage a large ranch with exemption from military service. Patriotism got the best of him, and he went to do his part in making that old cliche “keeping the world safe for democracy” a fact. He later realized that not taking the job was the greatest mistake he ever made for he was disabled in Siberia and could not do any work until 1927. “A great many of us World War I veterans were discharged with total disability,” he reported, “and this was at $30.00 per month and we even had that cancelled as soon as we were able to earn a few dollars. Today a lot of people kick because they have to retire at the age of sixty-five years. Well a lot us disabled, retired all the way from twenty to thirty years of age and with no income.”

However, back in Siberia, Beaugham did not know what the future held in store. He was laughing at the coolies and chasing them from the garbage cans.

Perhaps the most interesting feat of the Chinese coolies as far as the Americans were concerned, was the way they carried their wares. They danced and juggled their wiry little bodies until the perspiration stood out on their brows.

According to Lester Ade, there was a picturesque and quaintly odd mode of transportation in Vladivostok because of the coolies. He said: “This was by the bent back and balanced shoulders of the sweating Asian. The streets were filled with them hauling all sorts of fruits and vegetables from one part of the city to another by means of a ten foot pole balanced over their shoulders, heavily laden on either end with a wicker basket full of fruits and vegetables. They would go along like someone out of another world, dancing over the cobblestones with their wares.

“Sometimes,” he added, “these little Sons of Adam did not halt at such small projects but would hoist on their little backs large pieces of furniture, such as great old-fashioned dressers. From some of the loads I have seen them carry I have been rather expecting one of them to come along some day with his house strung over his back.” He added that it was not always wise to get too close to them for they had “never been introduced to anything like soap and water.”

Lynn McQuiddy said later that they had “clothes which lasted a lifetime for the encrusted accumulation of much had to be worn off before the cloth could be pealed; and some of them wore furs, even in the summer time! All this added to the white man’s nausea.”

McQuiddy continued: “The coolie lives by salvaging such items as rusty nails, tin can lids, odd metal pieces, cloth; some catch crabs and other sea food. Many gather on their backs huge bundles of branches of trees and shrubs, obtained far, far distant from Fladi. They slept in every imaginable kind of quarters included the outdoors. The most fortunate slept together in a room with on furniture whatever, as this only occupied floor space. The average small dwelling in America would have enough floor space to accommodate about two hundred coolies packed like sardines, lying spoon fashion. Some of their haunts had two shelves between floor and ceiling. Of course the first one in at night had to be the last one out in the morning. The ones who had it the softest were the fifty or more who slept on the bags of unwashed American soldiers’ laundry at the Chinese laundry.”

Eichelberger recalled having a good chuckle watching a Chinese carpenter who was engaged in putting up a map board. He wrote to his wife, ” He looked just like an Egyptian mummy and I split every time I looked at him; he was wrapped in so many layers of clothes.”

Rodney Sprigg said the coolie was “the most abject and at the same time the most worthless piece of humanity on earth. Filthy, dirty, poorly fed and worse clothed. His home was of pieces of tine and thatch and he had the disposition of a coyote. If you kick him, beat him, curse him, you get results. If you are kind he thinks you are weak and will be insulting, aggressive and disagreeable. He will steal anything from a worn out shoe to a ship. By disposition he is a pirate and by nature he is a craven.”

The coolies seemed to do most of the less desirable work in the city. They were the peddler, merchants, money changers and the laborers. They were also the servants of the better-class people. Other coolies ran restaurants, sampans, and laundries.

Many men wrote the coolies had money packed in layers in their clothes and down their legs. They opened dope dens, sold cocaine and offered girls, cards, dice and other things to the soldiers. They would haul out boxes and open shop by simply spreading their wares, usually sunflower seeds, peanuts and tangerines for these were the legal wares. They would place the material for sale on the boxes. “It was sure cheap for there was no water bill, no heat, not even any rent to pay.”

Gardening was considered “a big deal with them,” and they would clean out the barrack cesspool and put the waste on their gardens. The men used to see the coolies all about town. Sometimes the coolies would ride along with their little shaggy ponies hitched to a small wagon, hauling almost anything. They would often be seen walking beside their wagons too, with a loaf of black bread under one arm, breaking off pieces as they went along.

The Americans had to learn two distinctions in Russia. One concerned the Russians, and the other the Chinese. The Russians were basically composed of the White Russians, who were friends of the Allies, and the Bolsheviks or “Red” Russians.

The Chinese consisted of three distinct types. One type was the coolies just discussed. The second was the bandits who roamed and pillaged as they travelled. The third was the Chinese soldiers who helped in the intervention.

The bandits frightened inhabitants wherever they went. They were entirely different from either the lowly coolies or the find Chinese soldiers. They professed to come from an ancient secret society of ancestor worshippers and were called the Hunghuz.

Alan Ferguson told about them this way: “After the revolution in China the new government tried to force the people to cut off their queues which hey had worn for some three hundred years as a sign that they were a conquered people of the Manchus. The Chinese have great respect or worship for their ancestors and as they had worn the queues for three hundred years a lot of them would simply not cut them off. As a result of the new government held forced mass hair cuts. Some of the more ancient worshippers hid out to keep from being barbered. It was hard to make a living hiding out so a lot of them became bandits. When the Czar’s forces were withdrawn from Siberia to fight on the German front there was almost no law enforcement in Siberia and so the Hunghuz move in and terrified the inhabitants.”

Feguson explained: “There were a lot of honest Chinese immigrants, as well as Koreans, and they would have nothing to do with the bandits. In fact, the Manchu Bandits, [Hunghuz] preyed on the honest Chinese as well as on the Russian peasants.”

After its arrival, the AEFS had the job of supervising all peasants and keeping them disarmed. They offered the peasants what protection they could from the Hunghuz, but it was difficult to distinguish the honest Chinese from the marauders unless the latter were caught red-handed with arms or in the act of robbing. The bandits were considered vicious. They would kill a person for a few cents. Ferguson said that he knew of instances where the bandits would roughly knock a person’s teeth out just to get the gold fillings. The better-class Chinese so feared the bandits that they walled in their farmhouses and fortified themselves against the brigands.
The Americans were quite impressed with the Chinese soldier. They noted his quietness and politeness as well as his cleanliness. He was quite different from his coolie cousin on the street or the roaming bandit in the countryside.

As soon as the Chinese Government had learned of the American proposals to Japan, it announced it wished to participate in the intervention and offered to cooperate to the extent of seven thousand troops. The Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs informed the Americans that China would be dispatching one thousand troops to Vladivostok at once, by the Chinese Eastern Railway, and would send another thousand in the near future.

The Japanese were not happy about China’s intended involvement and claimed it was completely unnecessary. The Americans decided it was a matter for the International Allied Military Conference in France to consider. Nevertheless, China felt it was within its right to protect the Chinese Eastern Railway which fell within its jurisdiction. American’s State Department was sympathetic to China. Otherwise, control of the Chinese Eastern Railway might be delegated to Japan. Ultimately, the Chinese lay within its own territory. President Wilson approved.

The State Department views were conveyed to Baron Gato, the Chinese Minister in Washington, on July 31, 1918.

On August 1, 1918 the Flagship BROOKLYN wired Washington, confidentially, that China had been invited to join the Allied operations and reported that sixteen hundred troops would be sent to Vladivostok.

As a result of these movements on the part of the Chinese government, our men saw the Chinese soldiers in and about Vladivostok, Harbin and in other places along the line. They were at Ussuri and beyond, while the Japanese were operating on that line, and were at the Suchan Mines with other Allies. When the AEFS operated with the White Russians, Canadians and British, there were two platoons of Chinese along. In addition, many Chinese were guarding the Chinese Eastern Railway. Thousands were stationed in and around Harbin. The marines did duty with them. When the International Military Police patrol was established, the Chinese were a part of the body. They were even a Spasskoe.

The men had this to say about the Chinese: “They were fine, clean men and kept fine, clean quarters.”…”They were excellent soldiers who did the same type of duty as did the Americans.”…”We were always worried when he Chinese were around.”…”Once we had to defend a company of Chinese when it was attacked by Semeonov. There were a few Chinese there but I never could figure out why. Maybe they could not figure why we were there either.”…”Several thousand Chinese were noticed around Old Manchurian Station where we had to wit for four days. They were dressed in baggy blue uniforms which looked awful to us.”…”They would hid in huts or houses on patrol, and up at Suchan Mines.”…”I considered them the poorest excuse for a soldier that I ever saw. When trouble started they would drop everything and take to the hills.”…”They were wonderful soldiers.”…”They were trustworthy runners.”…”I thing they were a select group in the pay of Allies.”…”We liked them a lot.”…”The Chinese, and the Canadians, were the only ones we did not fight with our fists and that says a lot about what we thought of them.”…”They were quiet. They were an unruffled group.”…”They were awful.”…”We did not understand them.”…”We like them.”…”They would take orders far better than the Japanese and were always ready to help when needed.”…”I saw them drill often and felt they were the most accurate of any soldiers I ever saw. They had perfect formation.”…”I saw detachments of Chinese troops in small numbers but know very little about them.”…”They were mostly in Harbin.”…”They had a Chinese ship there. It looked about equal to the ALBANY, a 3rd class cruiser.”…”A squad of them marched on a patrol with us.”…

“They were very nice.”…”We marines did duty with them at the Russian Navy Yard and in the IMP.”…”Once we had two platoons of Chinese along with us. I don’t think there was a half inch difference in the height of the Chinese soldiers; they all seemed to be 5 foot 11 and were slim built.”…The Mongolians were the ones we saw and they were all over six foot and weighed well over 200 pounds.”…”They had a small contingent at Vlad.”…”I don’t remember seeing any in Siberia proper but they were guarding the Manchurian railroad which was then Russian property; I saw several incident involving Japanese and Chinese troops on the Manchurian railroad.”…”At times the Chinese were out along the line.”…”They did duty the same as the rest of us but I didn’t see too many.”…”They seemed to wander around but didn’t bother anyone.”…”We ran into them on patrols mostly hiding in huts or houses.”…”We were worried that they were around.”…”They were always ready to help when needed.”…”They did duty in Manchuria with due credit to the somewhat disheveled array of uniforms and arms; they seemed to be unruffled and could be trusted.”…”Chinese troops were along the border.”…”I dealt with Chinese officers when I was a Ussuri in January, 1919.”…”We saw then up north they were very nice.”…”I found them nice and polite.”…”They and their quarters looked clean.”…”They didn’t have much to say and did not mix.”…

Claire Rice of the RRSC did not worry about the Chinese, good or bad, for he was busy with a job all his own.

He had always had a way with cameras. While the RRSC had waited it out in Japan, he had been busy taking pictures of everything of interest. He had taken his films to a Japanese photographer in Nagasaki for developing and printing. Later he had decided it would be better and cheaper to do the work himself. He had acquired his own trays, chemicals, paper and other tools necessary and had begun to print his own films.

When the RRSC returned to Vladivostok, Rice was permitted to use a room in the girls’ school where the corpsmen were housed. He began to print films taken by officers. He was overjoyed as he was busy and doing something he enjoyed.

When the RRSC was transferred to naval barracks #18, he wondered if he would be able to continue. Luck was with him. A Japanese photographer who had worked for the American Red Cross had occupied a room on the second floor of the building. He “had been shooed out” by the commanding officer who refused to let the Japanese stay in the same quarters as the corpsmen.
The American Red Cross personnel could not get a replacement for the Japanese photographer. They considered sending their work to the States. It was then that an officer suggested that the shop be turned over to Rice. The resulting arrangement required that Rice lease the equipment from the Red Cross with the understanding that he would return it to them when he returned to the States.

Almost any type of photographic work could be handled at the shop. After Rice took over, the main purpose was to print small pictures of typical Russian scenes including droshkeys, trains, horse-drawn carts, parades, etc. He printed just about everything “that might interest the folks back home.” He printed just the picture by the hundreds; they were available to anyone who wished to enclose a picture when writing a letter.

Rice was in charge, but most of the work actually was handled by several other RRSC officers. The arrangement proved to be a lucky one. Almost as soon as the shop was settled, Rice was assigned to other work out on the line. He was able to get back to the shop only occasionally to take care of ordering supplies as they were needed.

The photographic shop handled “a fine line of Kodaks” as well as other photographic supplies. Rice’s supplier was Sale & Frazar, an English firm located in Tokyo. “They proved to be an excellent contact,” Rice said.

It had been assumed that the Red Cross would take most of the shop’s output. The shop was furnished with huge albums showing pictures which were available for sale at the Red Cross office. Rice soon realized that the heaviest buyers were the men of the regular army. They would go right to the RRSC barracks to buy the pictures they wished. It became a fairly lucrative business for Rice.

The photographic shop closed in October, 1919 after fifteen months of operation. Rice returned the equipment to the Red Cross, as agreed. By that time the men were scattered all across Siberia. Those fifteen months which began in August, 1918 gave Rice and helpers memories they will never forget.

“In the intervening years,” Rice reported, “I have often seen ‘our’ pictures reproduced in magazines. I believe our shop will be remembered kindly by all who spent their ten cents for a print of some scene they wanted.”

August of 1918 was tiring for the RRSC men who were in Vladivostok. However, there were social activities and news that Emerson and party would be back soon.

On the 29th Turner started to work at the depot from 4 pm to midnight. He handled messages and press for the Allies between Vladivostok and Harbin. Some of the other men were also beginning other jobs. There was finally some relief from the long months of inactivity.

The lack of mail had been “one of the greatest sore spots.” Finally some letters began to arrive.
On the 23rd Whitehead wrote home that thy were getting letters and that one of their own men was now handling the mail. He closed his letter, “The man who looks after our mail is waiting, so must close.” He had said that he only had five minutes to write, was well, and that the RRSC was “slowly getting under way now and will probably go to work any day.” He also imparted the news that “things of a very interesting and important nature 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 here in Vladivostok and some others went west.”

The one who “went west” were being dispatched in groups of three of four to division and repair points and to junctions in order that they could become familiar with the road and with Russian procedures. They were also sent to assist the Russians where possible, particularly with the many Baldwin eight-wheeled freight engines. Some of the men finally went as far inland as the border of European Russia. They performed valuable service in situations that were at times precarious according to L.D. Yates of the AEFS. He said that the RRSC had been recruited to take over the entire TSRR with men expert in every category of railroad repair and operation work.

Turner said that when they first arrived, they found there were no telephones worth mentioning on the line. The Russian telegraph was operated on iron wires which were not considered satisfactory. To operate a telephone on these same wires it became necessary for the RRSC to transpose the wires every half-mile. “This was done, and we put in telephones on the same circuit that would work up to three hundred miles,: Turner reported.

The Russian telegraphers were not allowed to receive their messages by ear as the Allies did not trust them. Instead a machine was used. The telegrapher read the message from the tape.
Rice reported that one of the most important phases of the RRSC work in Siberia was telephone-train dispatching. This despatching was done over three thousand miles of these telegraph wires. By the time they were through, this service ran all the way from Valdivostok to Omsk. Prior to the RRSC improvements, telegraph communication had been possible between three adjacent stations only. Station masters had been able to communicate with the next station on either side of them. When the RRSC finished, one central train dispatcher could control all trains and communicate with each station for hundreds of miles. This improvement resulted in the ability to move up to twenty-five pairs of trains overall given division, instead of the five pairs that had been possible by the former system.

The training of Russian telegraph operators for the new system required RRSC officers familiar with train dispatching. Those telegraph operators selected were quick to assimilate the instructions. They took over the duties of train dispatching for large territories in a most satisfactory manner.

“We heard later,” Rice said, “that the system of train dispatching that we initiated over there is still in effect and had since been extended to other parts of Russia.”

Before the AEFS arrived in August, the RRSC men felt they had done “a great deal to help Uncle Same prepare for the arrivals.” Kelly said: “Our Corps prepared Siberia’s face. We finished the barracks, laid the track, started roads, and made the doughboys feel at home.”
In this article he stated: “When Uncle Sam came to Siberia in 1918 with his 10,000 soldiers, as part of the Inter-Allied Intervention movement, he found there a busy earnest little band of men who bravely undertook and accomplished a thousand unaccustomed tasks to smooth the way to render that strange country a place of comfort and safety for our soldiers. They were the men of the RRSC.

“Docks had been finished for the transports. Tracks had been laid at the pier sides for unloading freight. Brown hoists were on the spot awaiting their work. An odd-appearing switch engine had shoveled in the first string of flats on adjoining rails. Barracks were ready, roads were being built. When the AEF first came to Siberia, it was met at the wharf by the RRSC, a sturdy and compact body of special ‘soldiers’ which had preceded the general movement for quite other duties, but had failed to with commendable zest at its new tasks.”

It is true that the RRSC had done, and were doing, an enormous amount of work to prepare Vladivostok for the doughboys, but the latter still “griped considerably” when they saw conditions upon their arrival.

Appendix
Aide Memoire

The whole heart of the people of the United States is in the winning of this war. The controlling purpose of the Government of the United States is to do everything that is necessary and effective to win it. It wishes to cooperate in every practicable way with the allied governments, and to cooperate ungrudgingly; for it has no ends of its own to serve and believes that the war can be won only by common council and intimate concert of action. It was sought to study every proposed policy or action in which its cooperation has been asked in this spirit, and states the following conclusions in the confidence, that if it finds itself obliged to decline participation in any undertaking or course of action, it will be understood that it does so only because it deems itself precluded from participating by imperative considerations either of policy or fact.

In full agreement with the allied governments and upon the unanimous advice of the supreme War Council, the Government of the United States adopted, upon its entrance into the war, a plan for taking part in the fighting on the western front into which all its resources of men and material were to be put, and put as rapidly as possible, and it has carried out this plan with energy and success, pressing its execution more and more rapidly forward and literally putting into it the entire energy and executive force of the nation. This was its response, its very willing a hearty response, to what was the unhesitating judgment alike of its own military advisers and of the advisers of the allied governments. It is now considering, at the suggestion of the Supreme War Council, the possibility of making very considerable additions even to this immense program which, if they should prove feasible at all, will tax the industrial process of the United States and the shipping facilities of the whole group of associated nations to the utmost. It has thus concentrated all its plans and all its resources upon this single absolutely necessary object.
In such circumstances, it feels it to be its duty to say that it cannot, so long as the military situation on the western front remains critical, consent to break or slacken the force of its present effort by diverting any part of its military force to other points or objectives. The United States is at a great distance from the field of action on the western front; it is at a much greater distance from any other field of action. The instrumentalities by which it is to handle its armies and its stores have at great cost and with great difficulty been created in France. They do not exist elsewhere. It is practicable for her to do a great deal in France. They do not exist elsewhere. It is practicable for her to do a great deal in France; it is not practicable for her to do anything of importance or on a large scale upon any other field. The American Government, therefore, very respectfully requested its Associates to accept its deliberate judgment that it should not dissipate its force by attempting important operations elsewhere.

It regards the Italian front as closely coordinated with the western front, however, and is willing to divert a portion of its military forces from France to Italy if it is the judgment and wish of the Supreme Command that it should do so. It wishes to defer to the decision of the Commander-in-Chief in this matter, as it would wish to defer in all others, particularly because it considers these two fronts so related as to be practically but separate parts of a single line and because it would be necessary that any American troops sent to Italy should be subtracted from the number used in France and be actually transported across French territory from the ports now used by armies of the United States.

It is the clear and fixed judgment of the Government of the United States, arrived at after repeated and very searching reconsiderations of the whole situation in Russia, that military intervention there would add to the present sad confusion in Russia rather than cure it, injure her rather than help her, and that it would be of no advantage in the prosecution of our main design, to win the war against Germany. It cannot, therefore, take part in such intervention or sanction it in principle. Military intervention would, in its judgment, even supposing it to be efficacious in its immediate avowed object of delivering an attack upon Germany from the east, be merely a method of making use of Russia, not a method of serving her. Her people could not profit by it, if they profited by it at all, in time to save them from their present distresses, and their substance would be used to maintain foreign armies, not to reconstitute their own. Military action is admissible in Russia, as the Government of the United States sees the circumstances, only to help the Czecho-Slovaks consolidate their forces and get into successful cooperation with their Slavic kinsmen and to steady any efforts at self-government or self-defense in which the Russians themselves may be willing to accept assistance. Whether from Vladivostok or from Murmansk and Archangel, the only legitimate object for which American or allied troops can be employed, it submits, is to guard military stores which may subsequently be needed by Russian forces and to render such aid as may be acceptable to the Russians in the organization of their own self-defense.

For helping the Czecho-Slovaks there is immediate necessity and sufficient justification. Recent developments have made it evident that that is in the interest of what the Russian people themselves desire, and the Government of the United States is glad to contribute the small force at its disposal for that purpose. It yields, also, to the judgment of the Supreme Command in the matter of establishing a small force at Murmansk, to guard the military stores at Kola and to make it safe for Russian forces to come together in organized bodies in the north. But it owes it to frank counsel to say that it can go no further than these modest and experimental plans. It is not in a position, and has no expectation of being in a position, to take part in organized intervention in adequate force from either Vladivostok or Murmansk and Archangel.

It feels that it ought to add, also, that it will feel at Liberty to use the few troops it can spare only for the purposes here stated and shall feel obliged to withdraw these forces, in order to add them to the forces at the western front, if the plans in whose execution it is now intended that they should develop into others inconsistent with the policy to which the Government of the United States feels constrained to restrict itself.

At the same time the Government of the United States wishes to say with the utmost cordiality and good will that none of the conclusions here stated is meant to wear the least color of criticism of what the other governments associated against Germany may think it wise to undertake. It wishes in no way to embarrass their choices of policy. All that is intended here is a perfectly frank and definite statement of the policy which the United States feels obliged to adopt for herself and in the use of her own military forces. The Government of the United States does not wish it to be understood that in so restricting its own activities it is seeking, even by implication, to set limits to the action or to define the policies of its Associates.

It hopes to carry out the plans for safeguarding the rear of the Czecho-Slovaks operating from Vladivostok in a way that will place it and keep it in close cooperation with a small military force like its own from Japan, and if necessary from the other Allies, and that will assure it of the cordial accord of all the allied powers; and it proposes to ask all associated in this course of action to unite in assuring the people of Russia in the most public and solemn momment that none of the governments uniting in action either in Siberia or in northern Russia contemplates any interference of any kind with the political sovereignty of Russia, any intervention in her internal affairs, or any impairment of her territorial integrity either now or hereafter, but that each of the associated powers has the single object of affording such aid as shall be acceptable, and only such aid as shall be acceptable, to the Russian people in their endeavor to regain control of their own affairs, their own territory, and their own destiny.

It is the hope and purpose of the Government of the United States to take advantage of the earliest opportunity to send to Siberia a commission of merchants, agricultural experts, labour advisers, Red Cross Representatives, and agents of the Young Men’s Christian Association accustomed to organizing the best methods of spreading useful information and rendering educational help of a modest sort, in order in some systematic manner to relieve the immediate economic necessities of the people there in every way for which opportunity may open. The execution of this plan will follow and will not be permitted to embarrass the military assistance rendered in the rear of the westward-moving forces of the Czecho-Slovaks.

Department of State
Washington, July 17, 1918.
Memoirs of a British Agent by R.H. Bruce Lockhart, pages 176-177

America’s Siberian Expedition 1918-1920 by Betty Miller Unterberger, page 8 (Hereinafter called Unterberger’s book)

Rice, a member of the Russian Railway Service Corps
The Decision to Intervene by George F. Kennan, page 292 (Hereinafter called Kennan’s book)
”What Happened in Siberia,” by Charles H. Smith, ASIA XXII, May, 1922, pages 373-378 and 402-403
Kennan’s book
See Appendix for Aide Memoire in full as taken from the Office of the Chief of Staff to the Adjutant General, file date 29 May, 1920 WDNA
Russia Leaves The War by George F. Kennan, page 293
Location of houses of prostitution
George Miller’s diary
Cigarettes
Hereinafter called RRSC
”A Minnesota Railroad Man in the Far East 1917-18,” by Judson A. Grenier in Minnesota History, Vol. 38, No. 7 (Hereinafter called Grenier’s article)
Supplied by James Whitehead of the RRSC
Graves’ Report, WDNA, dated June 30, 1919, based on conditions from his arrival in Siberia to June 1919
Chief Surgeon’s letter to Colonel Lewis, File 21.33 6 WDNA
Grenier’s article
Grenier’s article
From an article by W.A. Kelly in Souvenir Pravda #6, San Francisco RRSC Reunion, Dec. 11, 1932 (Hereinafter called Kelly’s article)
Kelly’s article
Kelly’s article
Grenier’s article
American Expeditionary Force in Siberia, Railroad Construction, WDNA 42.3
Turner’s papers
Greiner’s article
Department of State, Foreign Relations 1918, Russia 3 213 214
Grenier’s article
Grenier’s article
Grenier’s article
Kelly’s article
AEF in S Railroad Construction, 42.3 WDNA
Grenier’s article
Grenier’s article
Grenier’s article
Grenier’s article
Grenier’s article
”Report of the American Railway Engineers who were in Siberia at the time of the Czecho-Slovak movement which resulted in the overthrow of the Bolshevik and Central Power War Prisoners associated with them.” (This entire section is based on this and a later designated report by Packard)
A verst is 0.6629 miles
Personal communication from Frank Bean
Personal communication from L.D. Yates, C.D. Spiking, Irving Dexter, David Kinholt, Walter Smith and others
Packard’s report “An Account of the American Expeditionary Force, Siberia, 1918-19,” by Laurence B. Packard, WDNA (Hereinafter called Packard’s Report)
Packard’s Report
”The Czecho-Slovaks i Russia, August 1914, to February 1919″ by Laurence B. Packard, WDNA. A great deal of the following is from this report (Hereinafter referred to as Packard’s C-S Report)
Packard’s C-S Report
Dietrichs, a Russian general with the Czecho-Slovak army
S.I. Johnson’s Papers
From an unidentified Washington AP newsclip dated Sept. 24, 1918
An American Siberian Adventure by William S. Graves, page 84 (Hereinafter called Graves’ book)
Allied Intervention in Russia 1917-20 by John Bradley, page 88, and from L.D. Yates, Lefever, Metzger, H.L> Lanther, Henry Fry and others
A Russian unit of weight equal to 36.11 pounds
Unspecified RRSC report
Unspecified RRSC report
Unspecified RRSC report
Packard’s C-S report
Packard’s C-S report
Slaughter’s report of trip
Packard’s C-S report
Unspecified report from Emerson
Parkard’s C-S report
Unspecified report from Emerson
Unspecified report from Emerson
Unspecified report from Emerson
From “Potpourri” in the Japanese Advertiser (no date available) and from Turner’s papers.
Grenier’s article
Turner’s papers
Kelly’s article
Kelly’s article
Kelly’s article
Grenier’s article
Kelly’s article
Kelly’s article
AEF in Siberia Railroad Construction, WDNA 42.3
Packard’s report
Parkard’s report
Packard’s report
Medical history of the Expedition, WDNA
Packard’s report
From personal communication of the men, from the Intelligence Report, WDNA and from Kenneth Roberts’ book I Wanted to Write (Hereinafter called Roberts’ book)
Signal Corps Report, WDNA and Packard’s Report
Veterinarian Report, WDNA
Engineer Report of Expedition, WDNA
Packard’s Report
Packard’s Report
Graves’ book
Reports in books, and even in War Department archival records indicate that Graves received his orders on July 17th. This is erroneous. The Aide Memoire was written on July 17, 1918. Graves did not know of its contents, nor of his orders, until August 3, 1918.
Packard’s Report
Packard’s Report
Packard’s Report
Papers of General Eichelberger and New York Times obituary September 21, 1961
Eichelberger’s personal papers
Packard’s Report
Bean’s article in Bulletin of Los Angeles Unit of the Siberian Veterans (Hereinafter called Bean’s article)
Bean’s article
Siberia Today by Frederick Moore (Hereinafter called Moore’s book)
Bagg’s personal papers
Bragg’s personal papers
Zimmerman’s personal communication
Roberts’ book and Johnson’s personal papers
Mainly from Johnson’s personal papers. Also from Ferguson and others and from an undated newspaper column by Jared G. Smith
Robers’ book and personal communication from Roberts
Roberts’ book
Roberts’ book and private papers of Samuel I. Johnson
Roberts’ book
Court Martial file, WDNA
Lynn McQuiddy, personal communication
Moore’s book
Personal communication from several men
Personal communication from several men
Mainly from an unpublished article by Samuel I. Johnson; also from his personal papers and from personal communication from many men
As above
Whitehead, personal communication
Turner in letter to parents
Kolchak was later made the Supreme Commander of the White Russian Forces (in November 1918)
Claire Rice, personal communication
My Siberian Adventure by William S. Graves
Porter Turner, personal communication
Whitehead, personal communication
Kinholt, Reynolds, Metzger, Jeremiah, Beaugham, McQuiddy and others
Ferguson, Korn and others
Unterberger’s book
Bean, Beaugham, Bishop, Borda, Bourisaw, Boyer, CAnnon, Corwin, Dexter, Driscoll, Dwyer, Ferguson, Fry, Gee, Rockett, Holiday, Ivy, Jeremiah, Kinholt, Kendig, Korn, Lang, McClendon, McGown, McQuiddy, Metzger, Mitchell, Mojzisek, O’Dea, Redman, Reece, Reynolds, Robidart, Streed, Tornello, Turner, Vincent
From Rice’s personal papers
Kelly’s article at 6 pm. After having taken on eight.

96 Years Ago & A Few Trunks Later

October 19, 2010 Leave a comment
As of this writing, May 25, 2009, there was only ONE W.W.I. male U.S. solider who was still alive (and still is as of 10/2010, sadly he passed away in February 2011).

His name is Frank Woodruff Buckles (born February 1, 1901) he is, at age 108, the last identified living American veteran of World War I. He lived near Charles Town, West Virginia which is not too far away from where I live.  He was the Honorary Chairman of the World War I Memorial Foundation. Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Buckles

There was until very recently also a single female service member who was still living and not to be forgotten:

Charlotte Louise Berry Winters (1897-2007), one of the first women to enlist in the U.S. Navy, and served as a Yeoman (F) Second Class clerk at the Naval Gun Factory at the Washington Navy Yard.

Here is a list of the last surviving WWI Veterans by country as noted on Wikipedia.

Therefore, I dedicate this blog post and the next post which follows to the W.W.I. veterans, their families and to all veterans and their families.

And, finally I dedicate this blog as a result of the work which my grandmother did in behalf of the Siberian A.E.F of W.W.I.
Her name was Edith M. Faulstich (Fisher).

Let them not be forgotten.

To begin briefly, in 1995 I received a package from my father just before the Christmas holiday season. At the time, I was busy running to and from work, entrenched in raising my own three children as a single parent and doing my own research for my Master’s dissertation as a full-time graduate student. I had my hands full and very little time for letters or letter writing.
My life then was in full fast forward, at warp speed. In short, I had very little personal time and even much less time for any hand written letters.

But, that is the crux of this whole story, one of hand written letters. I digress a bit….

At any rate, I quickly scanned the hand written note from my father, wherein he stated that my uncle was thinning out some old family items from boxes and trunks in his basement.

Again, this seems to be a recurring theme by the way.
Basements and trunks.

My dad stated in his brief note to me that he thought, I might like a few of the family items, and he was forwarding them onto me. I am now the keeper it seems of some of the aging yellow papers. I put the papers away for safe keeping. And, that’s where they sat.

It’s already been nearly 15 years and I commented to myself, “Wow, time flies.
This weekend I opened the manila envelope which contained my grandmother’s published article written back in 1963, “A Find!- Mail to the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia, 1918-1920. ”

And I have brough out her yet unpublished book The Siberian Sojourn (exception there was one tiny publishing which was sent to the direct family members of the A.E.F. and to many of the veterans themselves).

The Siberian Sojourn and the 1963 article are her stories about postal letters written to and received from the forgotten American soldiers left in Siberia during WWI. Why is the relevant? Well, let me take you back a bit further on how this whole “letters thing” all began, more recently only 6o or so years ago.

In 1945-1947, Edith Faulstich began writing about Philatelic subjects, born as a result of simpler beginnings when she was a single parent raising two boys. She collected stamps with her children as a way to share something together, as a family.

There were no malls or the Internet nor cell phones back in her day.

Her “Saga of the Mails” expanded and her family hobby became a life avocation. During her early work and research, many of the A.E.F soldiers were very much so still alive, but passing with time. She sensed the information and data from mails and postal history to be important. And, today we now only have one WWI Veteran left living.

My Nana, Edith Faulstich contacted the A.E.F WWI Siberian veterans one by one, with letters all hand written and sent through the mail. It took a great deal of time. There was no instant messaging, text messaging nor email back then either. I found in reading her work, life moved much slower than today. And, even farther back where a single letter sent to Siberia took 6-10 weeks or more to arrive, if it got there at all.

This gift of a letter from my father now comes full circle, some 91 years since the actual A.E.F. Siberian Campaign; 1918-1920 which my grandmother worked tirelessly on. I am a grandmother now and it hardly seems fitting to just stuff all this paper in yet another trunk, to be completely forgotten.

I have become acutely aware of the passing of time. The passing of generations. The passing of history and all of our W.W.I. Veterans. And, now my own nephew is about to be deployed to a far off land in about 30 days or so.

Therefore, I’d like to ask the virtual masses online, does a single hand written letter with a postage stamp still hold any enduring value today? Like it did 91 years ago? And, more importantly, does it have value to our soldiers currently serving overseas somewhere
far from home?

Well, I know in looking backwards to W.W.I., that the voices of our Veterans are forever enduring because of Edith M. Faulstich’s intuition, insight, and research to “FIND” those letters and then to write about a single event with her discovery and subsequent article “A Find!”

Somehow, she innately knew way back then that “the covers” were important (a cover is the envelope the letters are shipped in). It is because of her work that her great-great grand children and other Veterans families of W.W.I. will know of her gift in seeing and knowing the “value” of a hand written letter.

And, please do not forget to take the time write a soldier.

Thanks Nana, to all our Veterans and our soldiers currently serving today.

Please read the next post, “A Find!”
Written by Edith Faulstich, reprinted in 1963 & today reprinted again on
Memorial Day, May 25, 2009.

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