Posts Tagged ‘Russian History’

Why I Chose A Swiss Grandfather

August 9, 2013 1 comment
I have in my possession, the following original typed article which was written by Edith M. Fisher, (circa about 1945).  Any reprint or use of any of this work must properly cite Edith M. Fisher/Faulstich’s name as the original author. The article includes a photograph of a very young Edith (“Dee”) Fisher with a caption: “Internationally know philatelic writer and an ardent collector of stamps and covers of Switzerland”
A hand-scribbled note on the top of a photocopy of the news article: “Thought maybe you’d like this re “ancestors” to pen (into the) baby book. ~ Mom

Why I Picked A Swiss Grandfather

Being on good behavior has its compensation in heaven the same on earth. I remember a time way back, about the middle of the last century, up in the never, never land.

I’d been on pretty good behavior for quite awhile when one fine day, my Guardian Angel said to me, “I want you to study the countries of the Earth.

Because you have been good, I’ll let you pick out the one where you think you’d like to live. In about three score years from now I’m going to send you down to Earth for one lifetime.

“Countries change so, how will I know what they will be like in the next century? I queried. “That’s a good question,” said my Guardian Angel, “no country is any better than the people in it,  or their ideals, and ideas. Rather, pick a man who will one day be your grandfather. Pick him for the country that is his background now and be satisfied to let the future bring what it may.”

Picking out a Grandfather from a country whose ideals were impressionable was a tall order. I thought I would never finish studying the countries of the Earth until one day I came upon Switzerland.

To me, it was the most beautiful of all countries that I had viewed. But we had been taught that is beauty is sometimes only skin deep. Perhaps, I thought the beautiful sky-pointed Alps, the profusion of wildflowers below the snow-capped mountains, the lakes, the quaint Swiss houses, the cleanliness and preciseness of the towns was only a thing of beauty. Perhaps, the people were not as fine as the beautiful countryside; but I determined to find out.

First, I studied the background of Switzerland and found to my delight that it was the oldest democracy in the world, in ancient days it was called “Helvetica.” Like most European countries, Helvetica went through its primitive period, with its domination by Imperial Rome. But, one day chosen delegates from the three countries of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, formed a political and military alliance to maintain independence against the Duke of Austria. This was on August 1, 1291. Through the centuries that followed, August 1st remained a Swiss National Holiday, because the document formed then contains ever the principle of its later constitution, even the one that governs Switzerland today. The document is called the Deed of the Confederation and is what dates Switzerland as the world’s oldest Democracy. Before another century had rolled around, five more Cantons were added by various treaties and Switzerland was hailed as a European power.

I studied this background reverently, and thought, “those people must have what it takes.” In a small territory, hemmed in by antagonistic larger countries, that had the determination and the fortitude to establish their independence.

Studying Switzerland’s background further, I found that she had suffered several centuries of hardships. The Reformation took its toll and subsequent internal political dissension weakened the little democracy, and I found myself worrying for her—forgetting that I was studying history that had already been written. Then I came upon the last part of the 18th century when the roar of the French Revolution rolled across the Alps and for the first and only time overturned the Confederation. The period of 1798-1804 was known as the Helvetica Period, I learned.

But, I saw that the Swiss were not to accept the new arrangement—although it took them until 1815 to restore the confederation. By that time, the twenty-two Cantons of which still make up the country had formed the Confederation and the system of the Cantonal sovereignty set up then and still exists today in a circle of Federal Union.

So much for background history, Switzerland inspired me, next I wondered about her achievements artistically. It didn’t take much study to find that their famous Abbey of St. Gall, laid down 1,200 years ago, was a hearthstone of the Arts in the middle of a barbarous Europe; that Calvin had founded the Geneva Academy of Arts in 1558 and that sculptors, painters, and musicians abounded in the little Democracy.

I saw the industries of the busy people of Switzerland, the herdsmen, the watch makers, the cheese and chocolate makers, and heard the happy peasants yodeling on the mountain sides, saw the St. Bernard dogs, beautiful, gentle, efficient. I read about the William Tell and his apple and was impressed. I got a fleeting glimpse into the future and say that this little country would be the seat of the Universal Postal Union, which would govern the mail service of the World.

By this time, it was quite apparent to me that Switzerland was as great a country as it was beautiful. I was convinced of its beauty, of its history, even of its aesthetic side. But, no truly great country can be great unless its people have compassion. Were there any great men or women in this beautiful spot that sacrificed their lives and their finances to help their fellow man? I didn’t have to go very far to find such names as Johann Pestalozzi, whose love of children and personal sacrifice for them, became a symbol of guidance to other countries throughout the world and of Jean Henri Dunsant, young man of a wealthy Zurich family, who devoted his life to helping the afflicted, who reduced himself to a state of poverty to help those in need, who founded the International Red Cross Society, which today has spanned to the four corners of the Globe, with its humanitarian program.

I felt numb with happiness. I felt sure that I had found the country that I wanted my Grandfather to come from. I sat down on my crossed legs and hummed softly, I looked down again into Switzerland, and as I did I suddenly saw a young boy walking the street of Schaffhausen. I heard my Guardian Angel say softly, “Have you made up your mind?’ Yes, I said, “I want a Swiss Grandfather.” She pointed to the young man in Schaffhausen and said, “Some day along about sixty years from now he will be your grandfather.”

I looked again, and heard the young boy, Conrad Bollinger was his name, saying Good-bye to his friends for he was leaving for America. I jumped up quickly. “But, he’s going to America,” I said to the Angel.

“That’s right” she answered, “there’s a new county over there—it needs the best that the rest of the world can give so that it can grow. Your Grandfather will have the ideas and ideals of the oldest democracy in the world as he establishes his home and family in a new democracy, which is trying to get over it’s growing pains.”

I must have fallen off to sleep then and it was some thirty years later when I awakened. I looked down again and this time I saw America. It took no time to find the young Conrad, but was much older now. He had fought in the American Civil War and was working for the Government of the United States.

My Guardian Angel appeared again, “Now,” she said, you can even see your mother.”

I looked carefully until I saw four children in their teens, three girls and a boy. They are your Grandfather’s children,” said my Guardian Angel, “the second from the youngest—Margaret is her name—will someday be your Mother.”

I rocked and hummed again, I felt good. I wondered if I would look a little like Margaret when I became an earthly child.  I thought, who could have picked out a better country than America in all this world, with a better background than one stemming from Switzerland. In fact, I felt pretty lucky. I had already seen both my Grandfather and my mother.

Again, I must have fallen asleep and the next thing I knew I woke up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York in the United States of America and someone said, “It’s a girl”

Note #1: August 9, 2013.

I am Alice Margaret Fisher. I was named after my grandmother and great grandmother Margaretha Bollinger. I am the granddaughter of Edith Margaret Fisher/Faulstich. I am the great-great-granddaughter of Conrad Bollinger, from Beringen, Switzerland. I retyped this article, written by Edith Fisher more than 60 years earlier, and furthered the family lineage into our Swiss ancestry as a result of her early work.

Our Swiss grandfather’s family now dates back to Hans George Bollinger, Born about 1588.

I am proud of this rich history and our deep roots.  As a result, when I completed a study abroad to Europe in 1994, and thereafter  I took my two young daughters with me and we traveled to Beringen, and Schaffhausen Switzerland.

We landed in Beringen on July 31, 1994,  it was my youngest daughter’s 12th birthday. We being the first to return as a direct line descendant of Conrad Bollinger. The village was exactly as my grandmother wrote, and they opened up the little museum and bought my girls an ice cream on Sunday pouring their history and lives out to us in earnest while we spoke a triangle of me with my broken French to the women in the village who then in turn spoke Swiss-German, to the Museum curator.

Note #2,  May 14, 2009
I’ve begun contributing to a Beringen, Switzerland History Project

With much pride and love to my Nana, you and your work will not be forgotten!
Alice Margaret Fisher


The Siberian Sojourn Volume II-Chapter 21

November 6, 2010 3 comments

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II-Chapter 21

General Graves and More Troops Arrive in Vladivostok

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

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

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

The SIberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 20

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The SIberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 20

The 90-mile March

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

At Ussuri –

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

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

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

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

A Soldier’s Prayer

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

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

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

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 19

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 19

The Battle of Kraevski

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

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

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

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

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 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.


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


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.

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.

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,

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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