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
Siberian Sojourn-Volumn II, Chapter 16
As the Americans continued to arrive in Vladivostok they could not help realizing that they were engaged in an international campaign.
– 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Youthful and eager to see everything new, the Americans enjoyed watching quaint customs, bawdy scenes any novelties that came their way.
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.”
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.
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.
2) War activities of prisoners of war must be halted
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.
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:
(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.
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.
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.”
“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.
Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Front
Commander of the Middle Siberian Corps
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.
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.
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 SIBERIAN SOJOURN- BOOK TWO
Written By: EDITH M. FAULSTICH
This work of my grandmother’s is protected by copyright laws, any use for profit thereof or reprint of any kind or use on any medium, social network, brochure, book, reserach article must be fully cited. Please, give her the due respect she deserves from the 25 years of selfless research she performed. Faulstich, Edith M. The Siberian Sojourn. [Yonkers, N.Y.]: Faulstich, 19741977. I have taken the time to electronically reprint her unpublished book, except for a very small printing which was provided to the families of the A.E.F soldiers and the select with whom she corresponded.
Please respect the life work and research of my grandmother, who has since passed on.
Book Two of the “Siberian Sojourn” is a continuation of Book One which was presented in 1974. Both books follow the outline as planned by Edith M. Faulstich prior to her death in 1972.
Book One, in spite of shortcomings, was well received by you veterans and you families. You knew well of the love and devotion with which the work was conceived by Edith. It is my hope that Book Two will be equally well received. I am sure that any shortcomings will again be generously overlooked.
While the story of any historical event can never be fully told, it is felt that something of value has been added to the record of the “Siberian” campaign. It was the intent of Edith that men and women who served would have some small recognition which is so rarely granted in the formal history books.
It is hoped that Edith will be pleased with this presentation. It is hoped that you veterans and your families will approve.
May 22, 1977
Footnotes to Book Two
Chapter XV Colonel Styer Arrives and Troops Land 1 – 24
Chapter XVI Events to the End of August 1918 25 – 54
Chapter XVII F & G Companies, 27th Infantry Regiment En Route to Sviyagino 55-74
Chapter XVIII The Britis 75 – 90
Chapter XIX The Battle of Kraevski 91 – 98
Chapter XX The 90-Mile March 99 – 120
Chapter XXI General Graves & More Troops Arrive in Vladivostok 121 – 158
Chapter XXII The Americans Settle in at Vladivostok 159 – 208
Chapter XXIII Personnel of the 27th and 31st Regiments Go Full Strength 209 – 221
Footnotes 222 – 226
Colonel Styer Arrives and Troops Land
Upon the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force, Colonel Henry Styer, who had command of the AEF in Siberia up to the arrival of Major General Graves, paid an official call on Japanese Lieutenant General Oi the Senior Military Officer then present in Valdivostok.
After introductory amenities were over, Styer asked Oi for suggestions as to the best procedure for American cooperation. To the Colonel’s dismay the Japanese general lost no time in stating that General Kikuz Otani of the Imperial Japanese Army had been designated to assume the Supreme Command of all the Allied Siberian Forces “at the request of the American Government.”
Styer was stunned by the impact of this news. American soldiers under the command of a Japanese? This was unheard of. With military dignity he merely indicated that he had not been so advised.
“I suggest,” said Styer, “that concrete plans await the arrival of the Supreme Commander of the American Forces, Major General William S. Graves. He will be here shortly.”
The Japanese retorted that plans could not wait.
It can well be imagined that Styer must have had a few sleepless nights pondering this. He wired Washington at once and asked for specific information regarding command.
When word was received it merely confirmed that Graves would be arriving in Vladivostok shortly. That had not answered his query. Washington’s apparent unwillingness to refute the Japanese announcement left nothing for the Colonel to do but proceed according to General Oi’s instructions until Major General Graves arrived.
Styer designated the names and duties of his staff officers. His official cable to Washington reported that he had with him 1,537 men of the 27th Infantry.
Among the officers were included some OF the staff authorized by the war Department: Colonel James S. Wilson, Chief Surgeon, Major David P. Barrows, Intelligence Officer (with four assistants) and Lieutenant Colonel W.V. Morris who became the Inspector General of the Expedition.
Colonel Styer conferred with Lt. General Yuhi, Chief of Staff representing General Otani and was given a detailed briefing on the general plan of operations. A map of the area was consulted. Styer was told that there were some 15,000 armed enemy in Khabarovsk. Yuhi stated that it would therefore be necessary to strike there first and take that city. They would then proceed west by Amur and Manchuria. There would be 40,000 troops and a long double line of communications to make secure between the Allies and the Czecho-Slovaks if the latter were to be extricated from west of Irkutsk.
Styer had not been briefed on conditions, but he did know that the Czeho-Slovaks were to be helped to get back to Vladivostok. That was part of the mission. But he had no way of knowing that the Japanese exaggerated conditions. He simply assumed that their reports were correct.
Therefore, in special Orders #1 of August 16, 1918 he stated that the Second Battalion was ordered to relieve the Railroad Guards.
Thus it was that American soldiers served under Japanese command from mid-August, 1918 until the arrival of General Graves on September 2, 1918.
Upon his arrival Graves immediately called on General Utani (by that time himself in Vladivostok) and set the record straight with regard to the command of American troops. Graves stated that he and he alone would be in charge of the latter.
Before the arrival of the Commander in Chief, Styer had wired Washington on August 19th to report his meeting with Yuhi. He gave estimates of the situation and plan of operations.
“General Otani stated that in his judgment present forces assigned to the expedition are insufficient to accomplish mission which was and remains solely the extrication of the Czechs west of Irkutsk between whom and us are 40,000 enemy forces and a double line of communications to make secure. The Czechs west of Irkutsk have little ammunition left and are otherwise in pitiable plight, so much so that their relief before winter is imperative if they are to survive. This can only be done in his (Otani’s) opinion by a rapid campaign with augmented forces. He asked the Allied Commanders to so represent to their governments and that they themselves send all forces immediately available and request Japan to send troops at once in sufficient numbers to meet the situation: 5,000 Canadians are en route. Japan has ready many troops. After asking each Commander if and how many of his troops were read to join in advance on Khabarovsk, he stated his intention of ordering an immediate concentration of all available forces and an attack.”
Several days later, on August 21st, Styer set forth General Order #5. It said in part: “This detachment has the distinction of being the first of the American Expeditionary Forces to land in Siberia. Each officer and man has the responsibility to adopting from the start a personal attitude which will help the American objects in uniting their military power to that of our Allies for the defeat of the enemy purpose in Russia. The good name of the United States and the maintenance of cordial relations with the Allied forces and with the Russian people requires perfect deportment of each member of this command. The situation of the Russian people is one that entitles them to our sympathy and consideration. After making great sacrifices and enduring great hardships in the conduct of the war, the Russian people now find their government disorganized in the process of changes started by the revolution and our behavior and attitude must always take this into consideration, so that no one at any time may justly charge any individual American officer or soldier with exploiting or criticizing these conditions. The absence of an efficiently organized civil administration necessitates unusual restraint on the part of all American officers and noncommissioned officers of their military authority to quiet any altercation, misunderstanding or disorder. All members of this Command are enjoined to refrain absolutely from political altercations or unfriendly criticism.”
It was in this Order that Styer also directed the Second Battalion of the 27th Infantry to relieve the railroad guards along the line from Vladivostok to Nikolsk.
In the two weeks that followed, American men were put through an ordeal that none will ever forget. They were forced on rides and marches through terrain and conditions which were unbelievable. They went into skirmishes with a will to win, skirmishes which should not have involved them at all.
It all started in Vladivostok when the exaggerated Japanese reports spurred the Allies into action in accordance with the plans outlined by the Japanese. It was not until some time later that the extent of this exaggeration was realized. Finally it was discovered that heavy reinforcements were not needed for an immediate offensive. Apparently the request for Allied troops was arranged so that the soldiers would arrive after the Japanese had waged their campaign and after they had gained the fruits of victory. But in all the flush of information given to Colonel Styer upon arrival, there had been little else he could have done except to rely upon the Japanese and comply with Otani’s express commands. History had not yet been written and no one could have known at the outset what lay in the vast unknown depth of Siberia; nor that the military situation had been misrepresented.
The Japanese had presented the plight of the Czecho-Slovaks as pitable. Yet at that time the Czechs occupied the banks of the Ussuri River and were supported by the Cossacks, the British and the French. Some Japanese detachments were also there. It became apparent that Japanese actions were motivated by aims of their own rather than by a spirit of cooperation with the Allies.
In addition to the burden of the astounding Japanese demands for American troops to leave Vladivostok, Styer was concerned with the quartering and supplying of his troops. At this point, his men were still aboard the transport.
Styer reviewed the situation with staff officials. Suitable barracks had to be found immediately. There would be a need for storage houses. The possibilities of Vladivostok as a source of supplies for the troops had to be investigated.
The general disorganization must have been most disheartening; it is unlikely that any expedition ever entered a foreign port with so little advance preparation and with so many confusing orders. The town was studied from one end to the other more than once and Colonel Styer wished that General Graves had been able to be with him in all his moments of decision and indecision.
Vladivostok with all its suburbs to the north and east was dotted with barrack groups said to be sufficient for some 70,000 Russian soldiers. This was good news indeed, until it was realized that as far as American soldiers were concerned it would not house that number. The standard cubic air space required for our men was much more than that allotted to Russian military men.
When the American officers visited the barracks they reeled in revulsion. The floors were covered with layers of excrement and filth and the whole was infested with vermin. There was no running water, no sewer system nor any provision for artificial light!
“Good God,” moaned more than one man, “what can we ever do with these?” They left the stinking quarters as fast as possible.
The barracks all conformed to a general plan. The dimensions of each were usually 100 x 50 feet. The structures were predominantly one story in height and built of brick trimmed with cut stone.
The barracks in Vladivostok as well as throughout Eastern Siberia had been built for Russian troops; all appeared to be of a standard type. There was usually an entrance at each end. Each building contained four small rooms twelve feet square. These were separated by a narrow hall terminating in a general squad room. Ceilings were twelve feet high. These rooms were used for administration purposes.
Each kitchen contained a typical Russian stove, usually four feet broad, three feet deep and six to eight feet high. Stoves were equipped with immovable small fire boxes and with huge iron or copper cauldrons of 50-gallon capacity. Generally there was no provision for cooking or baking on the top. Further investigation revealed that there was no provision whatever for the cleaning of utensils!
The officials learned that garbage and waste water had usually simply been thrown down a hole in the floor. The Americans were learning about life in Siberia.
“Where did the soldiers eat?” asked one of the officers, for there was no mess hall in any of the barracks.
They were to find out that Russian soldiers went into the kitchen to receive their food which was then eaten in the Squad Room. This room was lighted with the customary double windows which provided about the same degree of light as the Americans had been used to in the States. The Squad Room was heated by another large brick or cast-iron stove which was lined with firebrick. These stoves were about four feet square and ten feet high. The firebox was small and required hours of firing until sufficient heat was generated. They were, however, adequate to heat a room ventilated in a manner to which the doughboys were accustomed.
It was learned that in Siberia, with the onset of cold weather, buildings were hermetically sealed to conserve fuel. Eastern Siberia had little available as a result of the disorganization of the railways. Available coal was inferior in quality.
Stoves in the officers’ rooms were miniatures of those in the barracks. At regular intervals in the barracks groups a typical Russian bathhouse was located. This was a one-story affair where provision was made to expose from twenty to forty men at one time in the conventional Russian bath followed by a cold plunge.
As he studied the situation in Vladivostok, Styer became increasingly more troubled. It did not take him too long to realize that the Allied military objective required prompt reorganization of the railway administration. Seated on board the WARREN on August 17, 1918, he wrote: “The American Railroad Engineers are right in Harbin and have been ready to do the necessary reorganization. Some of them are also in Vladivostok now. They are prepared with full knowledge of the situation based on full investigation and practical cooperation. As a military measure of the first importance I believe they (The Russian Railway Service Corp) should be placed in charge of the railway administrations at once. I propose to so represent to my government by cable today, with the recommendation that the services of these engineers be formally placed at the disposal of such military official or body as may be appointed by the Allied Commanders to supervise the military use of the railway necessary to joint operations. Your views are requested.”
While Styer and other officials were trying to investigate the situation and arrange for barracks for the doughboys, the latter were tramping up and down the transports wondering when they could set foot on land again. As a matter of fact, the officers had similar thoughts.
When the men finally left the transports they learned that the British, French and Japanese were already there. The Czecho-Slovaks were everywhere and the White Russians and Bolsheviks were both entering the city by carloads. Those “grinning Chinese coolies” already discussed, were present in every group and new leaders were screaming to the Russians to join their particular kind of Government.
The Cossacks were sniping at the peasants who were scowling so bitterly one could almost here their oaths.
Yes, the wharves that mid-August of 1918 offered quite a sight; there were meticulously dressed business men, unclothed and unbathed urchins and men, women and children in a variety of costumes all intermingled.
To our soldiers in their neat olive drab it was perhaps the beginning of the strangest series of experiences they were ever to face. One man said that the most peculiar happening that he witnessed on his first day was a pompous, well dressed business man “stepping over a stinking dead animal, covered with vermin, right in the middle of the street as though it was a perfectly ordinary thing to do.” The soldier added that he “felt dizzy and distracted by all the disorders and by the sights and smells.” The men had no sooner set foot on land than they were assailed by one rumor after another. Furthermore, none of the officials seemed to have any idea of what to do with the army once it got on shore. The prevailing disorganization has not been forgiven by many a man to this day. The faith they had in their country began to waver. A doubt disturbed them, one they wanted to push aside, but a doubt nevertheless. As they were shunted from one place to another in the months ahead and had become accustomed to the confusion and chaos in Siberia, this doubt faded; they never did, however, ever completely forget those first disappointments. They had believed that Uncle Sam would surely have barracks and chow ready for them upon arrival.
As though it was not confusing enough to view the melting pot of the world at Vladivostok’s front door, the 1500 arrivals were about to face a local stike!
Local labor, although in apparent need of money, refused to unload the transports. This work was now left to the ocean-weary soldiers. It meant no sight-seeing, no rest, no chow; just hard labor.
The officers too were furious at the disorganization attending their arrival; the strike was about the last straw.
When the Russian laborers saw that the Americans were about to do their own unloading, they recanted and agreed to work after all. They were then told to go to hell by the officers; the men of the 27th did the work.
Emotions remained mixed. There were always a few who professed to have had no surprise or amazement at the treatment. One man said, “It’s always the same in any port.” Others disagreed violently. Many put the unpleasant aside and recalled the reception they had received. They never forgot the wonderful and strange arrival and recall to this day that they were met in the harbor by the Czecho-Slovak soldiers who nearly “raised the roof” when they saw the Americans. “Those fellow sure made us know that they were glad to see us,” one man said.
But when the men left the ships and had had a chance to talk to those who could understand them, they became fearful in spite of the size and obvious commercial status of Vladivostok. The fears that had assailed them on the transport regarding wolves and Bolsheviks had been allayed, had released tens of thousands of German and Austrian prisoners of war who were going to treat the Allies as enemies, they began to wonder how the situation was to be met.
When the Americans put the town under closer scrutiny it still seemed a quaint place, not as beautiful as they had at first though. Otto Korn expressed it this way when he had fist landed: “It was as though the wheels of time had stopped turning about a century ago. The quaint old buildings on cobblestone streets were pleasant to look at, but oh the filth when you came closer! Most of the people were emaciated looking and poorly clad. The men were bewhiskered usually, and wore knee length boots. This seemed the custom throughout the land. They had Tonnerville Trolley type streetcars mostly driven by fat sloppy women often in dirty house dresses or aprons. The cars were usually loaded down with people, many carrying large bundles of belongings wrapped up in bedsheets or tablecloths, or the like. Pigs and chickens ran in and out of the front doors of the homes, which were built right on the sidewalks–and this was in the busier parts of the town where the streetcars and cobblestones were. Their highways or rural roads were unpaved; practically ungraded. When wet they were quagmires and when dry they were dusty and nothing but ruts and bumps. Then there were the collies who went around and cleaned out the latrines. They were called the ‘honey dumpers’. Beverage systems and inside plumbing was not too prevalent. Lost every town we subsequently came to had a Japanese red light section, but at the same time most every village had a church. The Greek Orthodox Church with its double cross bar became a familiar sight no matter where we went. As congenial and friendly as the Russians seemed to be, life was still very cheap. A person did not have much trouble losing life. The entire atmosphere to me seemed to be one lawlessness. I believe that many people were murdered and there was nothing down about it.”
It was soon learned that the masses of material piled up at dockside were actually the supplies and munitions about which the Americans had heard so much. They had been told so often that the material had been sent to Siberia by the Allies. No one had to tell them what might happen if those supplies fell into the hands of the released German prisoners! It might mean victory for the enemy. The Americans realized that it would be a fight to the finish if the prisoners seized those supplies. Furthermore, the Americans knew that the Bolsheviks and others would contend for money as well as the very clothes on a man’s back.
“Be wary of any man,” the doughboys were told, “no matter what kind of a uniform he may be wearing for you never know when a Bolshevik will be dressed up like a White Russian Admiral.”
Many of the Americans were ‘bitching’ about their accommodations. George Vandenburgh said that they were temporarily placed in old Russian quarters which were “full of cockroaches. We spend several days with candles lighting them as they ran up the walls. It was bitterly cold at night and we were not issued warm clothing for some time.”
Julian Sheppard recalls meeting Czecho-Slovak soldiers that had “captured the town and taken a good deal of prisoners. They were kept in he old round house and there were some very rough people among those prisoners.”
The whole situation, the sights and sounds and advice, did not make for a very relaxed atmosphere. Furthermore, the Americans were told to watch out for unexpected raids. These were frequent they heard, and one never knew when they were going to come. All this sage advice was from the few in the seething mobs who could speak the men’s own language. The Yanks were also told: “Good God men, you had better get other clothes and quick.” This caused concern. They were hot and contented when they arrived in August, but at night it was quite a different story. Sometimes the temperature dropped unbelievably and before long the Americans heard that it would go to 60 degrees below zero.
“Save up your grease,” the soldiers were advised, “for a month or so you will have that stinking stuff on your face, or your skin will crack. You won’t be able to stand the cold, or the stench of the grease, so what’s the difference.” Sardonic laughs accompanied the information.
“It’s a lovely place here,” said one Tommy to a Yank, “wolves howl at night, bandits prowl by day and by night, murder and unburied bodies are an everyday occurrence. Yes man, quite a lovely, lovely place.”
The new arrivals did hear one favorable thing about Vladivostok. That was that the city had “nice Chinese tea shops.” This sounded good, yet more than one nose wrinkled when there came to mind the Chinamen they had seen at the waterfront.
So this was what they had come to. This was the vast frozen wasteland full of wolf packs that would be lined up at the dock; and then they were told to visit a nice Chinese tea shop! With no wolves in sight, what a topsy-turvy world!
While they waited for a suitable place to be quartered they had increasing conversations with those who had preceded them. They learned of the vanguard of Czecho-Slovaks who had come overland from Europe with rifles and they had entered from the land side and eventually fought the Bolsheviks from one railway station to another, and how as a result of this the very air of each town reeked with desolation. The Americans were told that the Bolsheviks had welched on an agreement with the Czecho-Slovaks who were not about to accept a double cross; they fought back. Riots were the order of the day.
The Americans wondered what it would be like in those outlying districts along the tracks. Would they be sent there? They saw that Vladivostok had not remained immune from war for there were bullet-riddled buildings and many windows were still devoid of glass.
Perhaps the most comforting sight that the doughboys enjoyed was that of the majestic BROOKLYN and the sailors and marines aboard her. They called to the ship with much affection.
“Good luck, guys,” Emmett Hoskins, a sailor, called back. “You are our regular army and we are with you all the way.” And the sailors meant it. Hoskins wrote in his diary: “The troops looked wonderful to us. There were young soldiers, and those with hash marks, and we knew they were the backbone of our army and would be a good fighting outfit. But we could not help but notice the difference in ages and builds. Some were so tall, some short, some thin, some fat; but all military of the United States of America.”
Although it was good to see the Americans on the BROOKLYN as well as the English and the French troops, the general effect was almost awesome.
It was difficult for an American to evaluate the ethnology of Siberia after viewing the population in the streets that late summer of 1918. Those of the better class seemed to be of Russian origin as did the multitudes of peasants. Yet there appeared to be a large proportion of Chinese, Koreans and members of native tribes from the Northern Provinces. In addition there were the Germans, Austrians, Turks, Czecho-Slovaks, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Italians, Poles, Jews, Romanians, Siberians and others. For years Siberia had been the depository for political and criminal prisoners. Many of these were educated but penniless, the shabby genteel of the country. It was not until the turn of the century that Russia imprisoned her criminals in Russia rather than exiling them to Siberia. At any rate, the sons of cutthroats and intellectuals walked side by side through the muck of the streets of Vladivostok.
The American Intelligence Section was immediately placed in the preliminary staff arrangements upon its arrival. The group maintained close relations with the Flagship BROOKLYN as well as with Japanese and Czecho-Slovak Headquarters as well as the British and French Military Missions.
The American personnel were pleased indeed to know that they were surrounded by their Intelligence Section which they felt would keep them informed about conditions. An Intelligence Officer controlled the Engineer Detachment until September 11, 1918. Subsequently the Detachment was separated and placed under the command of an Engineer Officer. The Engineers had been occupied from the time of their arrival. Sixteen officers were provided for in the Headquarters Building and five field parties of three men each had started work on a reconnaissance map of Vladivostok and vicinity with an attached index to show location, construction and size of all buildings available for military purposes; principal buildings for the city were also indicated.
The Veterinary Unit was responsible for the welfare of animals. This unit had its own special problems as each piece of stock had to be examined by John A. McKinnon and Civilian Farrier William Humphries. It took some time to find that the 130 head of horses and 340 mules were in excellent condition and that they “suffered no ill effects from the trip.” Nothing was said about the mule which had been reported earlier to have died of seasickness. When the mules were debarked they were picketed at the Custom House docks. The stock was kept on these docks for six days and then transported to a compound of the Base & Line of Communications.
When Co. M, 27th Infantry, landed it used the sheds belonging to the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Some of these sheds were also used for storage rooms and one served to house the German and Austrian prisoners of war. Five hundred of the latter worked for the Americans in their sector. The prisoners were good workers; many had been to the United States.
Major Richard Allen of the Quartermaster Reserve Corps was assigned to duty as Quartermaster of the AEFS. On August 21, 1918 Major Allen was relieved by Lt. Colonel G.H. Williams, Infantry, as Acting Chief Quartermaster. Williams continued at this post until the arrival of Colonel E.J. Gallagher, Chief Quartermaster, on September 29th. The personnel that had accompanied the Expedition from the Philippine Islands included Major Allen, Captain L.J. Wechsler, 2nd Lieutenant Harry Feigleson and Frank L. Talmadge. In addition there were also one Field Clerk and 28 enlisted men.
The organization which arrived from Manila was equipped with Equipment C based on peace strength of organizations. The supplies necessary to equip these to full war strength with Equipment C and special Alaskan clothing (to enable them to endure the Siberian winter) were shipped later from the United States in accordance with requisitions prepared prior to the departure of the Commanding General.
The Quartermaster Division had commenced operations as early as August 7, 1918 when the first troops left Manila. Captain Wechsler was relieved on September 4, 1918 by Lt. Clifford C. Patterson, Q.M.C.
It was subsequently found that the Baldwin buildings, occupied as officers quarters, troop barracks, hospitals, stables, etc., were in bad repair, requiring a considerable outlay of material and labor to make them habitable and warm for winder living.
When the buildings were used as warehouses by the various departments it was found necessary to reinforce the floors as they were found inadequate to carry the storage of supplies. Adjustments were made by Russian carpenters under the direction of the Quartermaster Corps. War prisoners were used as laborers.
Since the water supply was poor, distilling plants were installed at the Base Evacuation Hospital. A bathhouse with 56 showers was built at the plant at the Base. The hot water from a condenser was used for bathing.
The Quartermaster Corps was to be kept busy for some time to come. A laundry was constructed by this unit for the use of the Evacuation Hospital. In order to provide transportation for the troops it was necessary to equip boxcars with wooden bunks. The latter were built the width of the cars at each end and were long enough to provide a comfortable bed. Cars were also provided for the transportation of animals.
Much of the above work was started soon after the men had landed. It was found necessary to construct new roads to and from the Base and around the Warehouse. Four thousand feet of foundation rock was laid 20 feet in width and 18 inches in depth. This was done under the supervision of the RRSC with POW labor.
After the confusion of the first landing had subsided, it became necessary to instal spur tracks (a total of 1,190 feet) parallel to the docks at the Base. These were placed to facilitate the loading and unloading of future transports. Railroad material belonging to the Chinese Eastern Railway was utilized for this purpose.
The inhabitants of the city saw the first American doughboys marching through the streets on August 18, 1918. The soldiers were en route to the front.
– The Parade –
It did not take the Americans long to hear that there was to be a big Allied Parade on August 19th. The men who remained in the city were to march through the streets in all their glory. The whole town was to be out to watch. And that was no exaggeration.
James Whitehead wrote to his wife at 10 pm the night of the 19th and said: “The Americans sure looked wonderful. There were about 1200 of them, all fully equipped. “Not all the troops were in the parade either,” he explained, “but there were enough to show the Russians a good sample of Americanism. I was up on a balcony with some Russian friends and sure had a wonderful view.”
Eugene Streed recalled that his detachment of Marines were parading between two bands which kept playing different tunes! “It sure was hard to keep in step.”
The parade started at 4 pm and the men were escorted by a company of Czecho-Slovaks as they strutted down wide Svetlanskaya Street. It was all very thrilling with the Czech bank playing for all it was worth.
A Guard of Honor also paraded down the street and was received by line of Allied officers. The public was wildly enthusiastic. The entire city joined in the air of celebration.
The reviewing officers included Admiral Knight of the U.S. Navy and Gen. Dietrichs, the general who was commanding the Czecho-Slovaks. American and Allied Consuls were also on hand.
Along the route the guards of the march were unarmed and were spaced at eight-foot intervals. These consisted of Americans, Czecho-Slovaks, Japanese and Russian soldiers as well as French, Japanese, British, Chinese and American sailors and marines. After the great showing the Americans returned to the transport.
RRSC corpsmen Porter Turner observed that there were about a thousand troops following the band and that there were also different supply wagons and autos. “They sure made a grand showing and were given a glad hand by all the leading people here,” he wrote.
Julian Sheppard of Co. K 27th Infantry was proud of the Colors of the Regiment as were all the men of that outfit. He notes “We paraded through the town. Movies were taken of our Regiment.”
The 27th Infantry Regimental Colors were first carried ashore to be displayed in the parade.
Later it had been rumored that the 27th had lost its Colors. Many of the men hotly denied this and James Merati reported that the Colors were always in front of Colonel Morrow’s headquarters. Merati stated that “they were displayed every single day and were always with the Regiment Headquarters Company. It may be that the 27th was split up into to many companies that it just seemed as though the Colors had been lost.”
Years later a version of what really happened appeared in an article by John W. Wike in the February 15, 1955 issue of “The Wolfhound.” The article had been published by the courtesy of “The Quarterly Journal Military Collector and Historian.” “The Wolfhound” was the official publication of the 27th Infantry Regiment and had been printed for that organization during the Siberian intervention.
Wike stated that the 27th Infantry Regiment (The Wolfhounds) received as much praise as any other unit in the army and that it was praise justly deserved. “At the same time,” he reported, “it has also been the victim of one of the worst type of rumor to befall a fighting outfit, namely that it lost its colors in Siberia in 1919 while part of the Siberian Expedition. This story has, in one version or another, been making the rounds since 1920.”
Mr. Wike said that he felt that it was time to kill the rumors and explain that in mid-August 1918 the 27th Infantry Regiment paraded their Colors on the 19th of the month and were reviewed by General Otani, Admiral Knight, Colonel Styer and others.
“From that moment,” Wike stated, “to the end of its stay in Russia, the 27th acted in the best traditions of the United States Army and when its soldiers embarked from Russian soil in December 1920 they did so with the praise of the local Russians and the Allies ringing in their ears.”
Exactly one year after the parade, on August 19, 1919, Colonel Morrow requested new Colors. The old ones had been in service for fourteen years and he reported that the silk had so disintegrated that repairs were not practicable. He also requested permission for the unit to retain its current Colors as no others were available and he did not want the regiment without its Colors while in Siberia. Four days later his request was approved and a cable was sent to the States for new Colors. The 27th also received permission to retain the old ones. On September 4, 1919, General Graves was informed that the Colors had been shipped from Jeffersonville, Indiana as early as April 30th. A further report indicated that the Colors had left San Francisco on June 5th. They started to the Regiment but never reached it and thus the rumor started that the Colors had been lost. “Far from being lost in disgrace,” Wike stated, “they do not seem ever to have been received. They were lost in transit.”
Wike proved his point by asserting that on April 21, 1922, when the unit was stationed in Hawaii, another request was made, noting that the Colors had been in use for sixteen years. This indicated that the flags then in use were the same original Colors that had been identified as being too ragged in 1919. They had not been lost at all; they were just a bit more ragged. At last, in 1922, new Colors reached the 27th and the old ones were put to rest.
It might be mentioned here that the 27th Infantry was organized during the Spanish-American War for service in Cuba. It also served in the Philippines at Mindanao in the campaign against the Moros; then it returned to Fort Sheridan in the States and on to the Mexican Border and Vera Cruz. The unit then returned to the Philippines; from here it left for Siberia.
– Arrival of the SHERMAN –
On August 21, 1918 the army transport SHERMAN arrived at Vladivostok with the men of the 31st Infantry Regiment. They had come from the tropical Philippine Islands.
The men debarked directly on the dock. On this occasion there were no strikers. Apparently, the Russian workers were loath to lose pay as they had upon the arrival of the 27th Regiment. After the unloading, however, when the laborers again had money, they again resorted to striking just at the time that the SHERMAN was ready to depart at 5 pm.
In a history of the 31st Regiment, it is noted that a tent camp had been established by the men at Gornostai Valley in the northern Vladivostok sector. Some detachments of Americans were sent there prior to being sent out along the Ussuri line.
Clint Stephenson of the 31st Regiment stated that when they reached the tent area it was almost dark. “The Captain halted the company and said we could find our tents. My squad found one and pitched tents. That night nearly everyone froze to death. All we had was one little blanket. When we awoke in the morning and saw the way we had pitched our tents in the dark we had to laugh at the crazy set of alinements.”
Stephenson was suffering from dysentery and could not go on. He reported sick and was placed on a boat and taken to “some island where the Japanese and the Red Cross had a hospital.” He observed: “I was taken by stretcher. A Japanese nurse then put me in a tub and gave men a bath. Later I was assigned to a four-bed ward and found myself with three English soldiers. My bed had no mattress or springs, just a blanket over bare boards. When the Japanese doctor found out I was an American I was pretty sure I was going to live. I didn’t think he would risk letting his first American soldier die. But I must say he knew his profession for in a few days I was blocked from the runs.”
Stephenson said that the doctor came in one morning and stated that he was going to administer an enema to Stephenson.
“I didn’t know what an enema was so I told him I wanted CC pills.”
The answer was “No. You will take an enema.”
“Later a nurse came in with a bottle with a long hose attached. I tried to drink from the hose, not knowing the function of an enema. The poor nurse was distracted as she spoke no English. The Tommies were guffawing. One of them told me what an enema was. When I heard, I absolutely refused to have one.”
Then Stephenson heard rumors that the outfit was leaving for Moscow. He did not want to be left behind so begged for permission to leave.
The doctor’s reply was “No.”
The Englishmen shook their heads in disbelief and said that they could not understand Americans.
UNREADABLE ………… fight and yet you want to get out.”
The doctor came in and said he did not understand Americans either and added: “One day you are nearly dead and the following day you want to get out.”
The young soldier did recover after remaining in the hospital for a month. Upon finishing officer’s school later, he remarked, “Sergeants Beck, Cranford and I turned in our commissions and were subjected to a two hour’s reprimand regarding the spending of governmental money needlessly. Nevertheless, I stayed with the Officers’ Mess until the following May when we went up to Shkotovo.”
Other men of the 31st Regiment recalled the arrival at Vladivostok. Harry Rohrer reported that after finally docking, the gangplank was lowered and the “men filed down to good old terra firma. Cripes it was good to be on land again.” Irving Dexter recorded in his diary that they made camp on the 22nd of August and worked the next two days. Guy Killman noted that after they arrived they were shipped out on the railway to different detachments. “Company M was scattered later in small detachments for about 100 miles. Our company was only 75 strong at the time. We never got any heavy clothing until we got back to Vladivostok where we received new men to make up our lost strength of 250 men. Then we were shipped to the Suchan Mines. While there, a good deal later, we did receive our heavy clothing.”
Earl R. Perry recalled that they were given shots and then mustered out to different commands. “I drew Headquarters Company, 31st Infantry and was given a briefing.”
On the morning after the arrival, the men awoke to reveille and wondering what the day would bring forth.
Rohrer stated that they had brief calisthenics in the cold air and then fell in for a breakfast of bacon, coffee and spuds. He was a member of K Company, 31st, which was assigned to guard the Base of Supplies and the German POW’s.
V.E. Hockett, with Company B, recalled the large brick barracks which were made available but said that the men were kept moving from one of these to another while on guard duty.
Jesse Ward of M Company recalled that most of the men were disgusted with the poor sanitary conditions in Vladivostok. He added: “The city had an odor that I can still smell, by fancy, after over 50 years.”
Rohrer and Asa Williams expressed disgust at the general conditions and Harry Bullard of H Company stated: “Being surprised is expressing it mildly. The Japanese seem to have everything under their control.” Victor Stanfield recalled his first duty. “It was a 24-hour guard duty at the Base. The Third Battalion of the 31st was commanded by Lt. Colonel S.C. Loring.”
Corporal W.H. Johnson who was with the Headquarters Band and Company C wrote his dad that after a pleasant trip, except for a rough day on the China Sea, they had shore leave at Nagasaki and enjoyed the sights before leaving for Vladivostok. His letter, written August 28, 1918, was severely censored. He stated: “I have been in Siberia for seven nights and have not slept twice in the same place, and have only had my shoes off three times. We are located in a large brick building now but no telling how long we will stay here. I don’t have the least idea where the rest of the Regiment is for we are all stationed at different posts….There are some (censored) troops who are bloody well buggered up in the first part of the war, also a (censored) troops. Have seen a lot of (much censoring) and some of our troops have the pleasure of guarding them at work (very long censoring). We have been very busy and are not allowed to leave quarters after 6 pm. I don’t know of any of our troops being killed yet but one was wounded. Our work is dangerous but there has not been any fighting in the city for over a month. The city is in the hands of our Russian Allies but it isn’t safe to be out at night. We have armed enemies (censored) away and there was a bunch of Russians, who had been wounded, at the dock to meet us as we came in. So we stand a good chance of seeing some action. The sailors from an (censored) gave us a cheer when we came in but now we are separated from the rest of the world. We can’t talk and have not received any mail as yet, but sometimes we get a little news from the ship in the harbor. Have learned some Russian words already and have a great time teaching the Russian soldiers our language and learning theirs. I am getting along fine but notice quite a change in the climate and from the looks of the buildings it must get pretty cold here in winter. Don’t worry about me here for I am having the time of my life. Most likely a few of use will meet a bullet some night on guard but that is to be expected in a place where there is so many different factions as there is here. I have had a experience of an army on the move now and have had to sleep in our little pup tents a couple of times. If I could write everything I wanted to this would be quite a letter but I suppose our mail will be censored.”
The civil war that had been raging resulted in the overrun of partisan bands and guerrillas and, although the United States was not at war with any faction, the troops were frequently fired upon. The small detachments were kept busy chasing these bands and in some cases several companies were organized to march against the resistance. Strong tactical positions had to be taken along the railroads.
The men who were to leave Vladivostok were told that they were to guard the Trans-Siberian Railroad and assist the Russian Railway Service Corps to keep traffic moving. They were also to guard American supplies, munitions, ordinance and property for the Allies. They were to assist the Czecho-Slovaks and the Russian Police in preserving order.
When the troops landed companies were formed and assignments were made. Jesse Ward said they ate their meals out in the open on the wharf and a lot of children gathered around them begging for food. Ward recalled, “I heaved a potato with a jacket on, to one of them and he said ‘spacebo’ so I learned my first Russian word.”
The Signal Corps was attempting to keep the American Headquarters advised of all happenings. Some 30 messages were sent out by wire each day. These mounted to about 1000 words each. In addition, there were press bulletins for the Committee for Public Information to all troops between Vladivostok and Chita which also came to about 1000 words daily. This work kept the Signal Corpsmen on the alert.
Communications were also established with various points of importance to the expedition. Line #219 from Vladivostok to Khabarovsk and a number of branch connections were made with communications eventually extended to Chita, some 1850 miles from Vladivostok, via Khabarovsk.
Much of the information has been taken from correspondence, diaries, letters and personal records of the men who served in Siberia.
WDNA refers to War Department section of the National Archives in Washington.
RRSC refers to the Russian Railway Service Corps.
His name is Frank Woodruff Buckles (born February 1, 1901) he is, at age 108, the last identified living American veteran of World War I. He lived near Charles Town, West Virginia which is not too far away from where I live. He was the Honorary Chairman of the World War I Memorial Foundation. Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Buckles
There was until very recently also a single female service member who was still living and not to be forgotten:
Charlotte Louise Berry Winters (1897-2007), one of the first women to enlist in the U.S. Navy, and served as a Yeoman (F) Second Class clerk at the Naval Gun Factory at the Washington Navy Yard.
Here is a list of the last surviving WWI Veterans by country as noted on Wikipedia.
Therefore, I dedicate this blog post and the next post which follows to the W.W.I. veterans, their families and to all veterans and their families.
And, finally I dedicate this blog as a result of the work which my grandmother did in behalf of the Siberian A.E.F of W.W.I.
Her name was Edith M. Faulstich (Fisher).
Let them not be forgotten.
To begin briefly, in 1995 I received a package from my father just before the Christmas holiday season. At the time, I was busy running to and from work, entrenched in raising my own three children as a single parent and doing my own research for my Master’s dissertation as a full-time graduate student. I had my hands full and very little time for letters or letter writing.
My life then was in full fast forward, at warp speed. In short, I had very little personal time and even much less time for any hand written letters.
But, that is the crux of this whole story, one of hand written letters. I digress a bit….
At any rate, I quickly scanned the hand written note from my father, wherein he stated that my uncle was thinning out some old family items from boxes and trunks in his basement.
Again, this seems to be a recurring theme by the way.
Basements and trunks.
My dad stated in his brief note to me that he thought, I might like a few of the family items, and he was forwarding them onto me. I am now the keeper it seems of some of the aging yellow papers. I put the papers away for safe keeping. And, that’s where they sat.
It’s already been nearly 15 years and I commented to myself, “Wow, time flies.
This weekend I opened the manila envelope which contained my grandmother’s published article written back in 1963, “A Find!- Mail to the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia, 1918-1920. ”
And I have brough out her yet unpublished book The Siberian Sojourn (exception there was one tiny publishing which was sent to the direct family members of the A.E.F. and to many of the veterans themselves).
The Siberian Sojourn and the 1963 article are her stories about postal letters written to and received from the forgotten American soldiers left in Siberia during WWI. Why is the relevant? Well, let me take you back a bit further on how this whole “letters thing” all began, more recently only 6o or so years ago.
In 1945-1947, Edith Faulstich began writing about Philatelic subjects, born as a result of simpler beginnings when she was a single parent raising two boys. She collected stamps with her children as a way to share something together, as a family.
There were no malls or the Internet nor cell phones back in her day.
Her “Saga of the Mails” expanded and her family hobby became a life avocation. During her early work and research, many of the A.E.F soldiers were very much so still alive, but passing with time. She sensed the information and data from mails and postal history to be important. And, today we now only have one WWI Veteran left living.
My Nana, Edith Faulstich contacted the A.E.F WWI Siberian veterans one by one, with letters all hand written and sent through the mail. It took a great deal of time. There was no instant messaging, text messaging nor email back then either. I found in reading her work, life moved much slower than today. And, even farther back where a single letter sent to Siberia took 6-10 weeks or more to arrive, if it got there at all.
This gift of a letter from my father now comes full circle, some 91 years since the actual A.E.F. Siberian Campaign; 1918-1920 which my grandmother worked tirelessly on. I am a grandmother now and it hardly seems fitting to just stuff all this paper in yet another trunk, to be completely forgotten.
I have become acutely aware of the passing of time. The passing of generations. The passing of history and all of our W.W.I. Veterans. And, now my own nephew is about to be deployed to a far off land in about 30 days or so.
Therefore, I’d like to ask the virtual masses online, does a single hand written letter with a postage stamp still hold any enduring value today? Like it did 91 years ago? And, more importantly, does it have value to our soldiers currently serving overseas somewhere
far from home?
Well, I know in looking backwards to W.W.I., that the voices of our Veterans are forever enduring because of Edith M. Faulstich’s intuition, insight, and research to “FIND” those letters and then to write about a single event with her discovery and subsequent article “A Find!”
Somehow, she innately knew way back then that “the covers” were important (a cover is the envelope the letters are shipped in). It is because of her work that her great-great grand children and other Veterans families of W.W.I. will know of her gift in seeing and knowing the “value” of a hand written letter.
And, please do not forget to take the time write a soldier.
Thanks Nana, to all our Veterans and our soldiers currently serving today.
Please read the next post, “A Find!”
Written by Edith Faulstich, reprinted in 1963 & today reprinted again on
Memorial Day, May 25, 2009.
dedicated to Edith M. Faulsitch (Fisher)
and her life’s work as a postal historian relative
to the American Soldiers (A.E.F) in Siberia during WWI.
Ms. Faulstich was also an internationally known
Philatelic Jurer, journalist, and
the first woman president of the US Postal History Society.
It is my hope to keep her writing alive without personal gain.
All the work herein is Copyrighted under her name(s),
and should be cited as such.
Faulstich, Edith. M. “The Siberian Sojourn” Yonkers, N.Y. (1972-1977)
Tuesday, April 23, 2012. A List of Faulstich Material @ Hoover
Canadians – E. M. Waite correspondence
Chinese Eastern Railway
Christmas and other holidays
Cutrer, E. V., Major – report by
Czar and other Romanovs
[ Box 4 ]
Decorations, awards, and citations
Diary of Arnold Eugene Jenny, partial contents list
Drugs, vice and protitution
Edwards, G. M., Lieutenant Colonel – report by
Eichelberger, Robert, Major – letters
Graves, W. S., General – report by
Homesickness and boredom
Inter-Allied Railway Commission
International Military Police and Major Samuel I. Johnson
[ Box 8 ]Johnson, Samuel I., Major
Knights of Columbus
Mail and postal matters
[ Box 9 ]
Medical – cholera, venereal disease, dental, typhus
Medical – priest’s report
Meetings of Allied representatives in Vladivostok
Military – marches and engagements
Military – miscellany
News – articles, magazines, etc.
[ Box 10 ]
News – articles, magazines, etc.
News – newspapers, news reports, etc.
Packard, Laurance B., Captain – report by
[ Box 12 ]
Red Cross – relief trains
Reeder, Red, Colonel – article by
Robinson, O. P., Colonel
Romances and marriages
[ Box 13 ]
Russian Railway Service Corps
Ryan, Albert E., Lieutenant
Spasskoe – reports on
[ Box 15 ]
Thirty-first Infantry Regiment
Train of death
Turner, Porter E., Colonel – correspondence and diary
Twenty-seventh Infantry Regiment
Veterans’ bonus and pensions
Young Men’s Christian Associations
[ Box 16 ]
Ade, Lester Kelly, Dr.
Allen, Riley H.
Baggs, Ralph – letter and telegram books
Bean, Frank W.
Beebe, Earl S.
Bender, Martin S.
Betz, George A.
Billick, George P.
Boggs, William G.
Born, Johnston A.
Boyer, Carl W., Dr.
Buckley, Edward B.
Budd, John J.
Bullard, Harold C.
Cannon, Fred J.
Carey, Harry H.
Carroll, Gerald J.
Chadwick, Stephen F.
Chapman, William McC., Colonel
Chesebro, Paul E.
Chipman, Clifford I.
Clarke, Clement S.
Colman, Paul R.
Crichton, Fred R.
Cumley, W. H.
Dean, Charles E.
De Met, George
Dexter, Irving A.
Diaries – miscellaneous
Dillingham, William L.
Doherty, William C., Ambassador
Driscoll, John E.
Duffield, William R.
Dusold, Andrew J.
English, Thomas H.
Evans, Clifford F.
Eveleigh, Percy Frank
Felleman, George H.
[ Box 18 ]
Fifer, Leo G.
Fisher, Carl W.
Fleet, Chris H.
Fletcher, Eva B.
Foley, Robert J.
Frayer, L. W.
Frey, W. H.
Fry, Henry C.
Gee, Sidney V.
Gilbert, Fred J., Sr.
Graves, S. C., Major
Grayson, Walter A.
Hanbloom, Bert B.
Hansen, Carl O.
Harper, Anthony J.
Harrelson, Joseph S., Jr., Colonel
Head, Leslie H.
Hockett, V. E., Dr.
Hoskins, Emmett A.
Hoyman, Harry H.
Ivy, Charles M.
[ Box 19 ]Jenny, Arnold Eugene
Jeremiah, Roy A.
Johnson, Ivan Cameron
Johnson, William H.
Jorgensen, Mignon K., Mrs.
Kamiske, Michael R.
Kempa, Arthur A.
Kendall, Paul W., Lieutenant General
Kendig, Hal D.
Telegrams – miscellaneous
Twenty-seventh Infantry Regiment
Yates, L. D.
Pitts, Oscar G.
Predmore, Arthur L., Colonel
Redman, Harry K.
Reece, William O.
Reed, E. W.
Reed, Lester W.
Reher, Ernest A.
Rehfuss, Louis A.
Reynolds, Elmer E.
Rice, Claire R.
Ritchey, Clara M.
Rogers, R. H.
Rohrer, Harry C.
Sale, Jesse L.
Shotwell, Thomas A.
[ Box 21 ]
Duke University (Mattie Russell)
Korn, Otto H.
Longuevan, Joseph B.
Loutocky, J. A.
Lynch, James W.
McClendon, J. T.
McQuiddy, L. A.
Masury, George Tait
Maxwell, Charles P.
Miller, George E.
Miscellaneous and partial letters
Spiking, C. D.
Stephenson, Clinton W.
Streed, Eugene F.
Stommer, Harry N.
Sundheimer, John M.
Umbreit, Cora Hobein
Whaley, Harry R., Mrs.
Wykoff, Roy A.
Yates, J. J.
Zimmerman, Theodore H.
[ Box 22 ]
Baggs, Ralph L. – correspondence (intelligence) – See 1963 Article, “A Find!”
Edwards, Lillian S. (nurse)
Entertainment programs, poetry, news clippings, telegrams, map, and miscellanea
Goreham, Alphia Wilber – correspondence
Miscellaneous articles, reports, and news clippings
Miscellaneous postwar items, photos, and correspondence
News and press releases
Padley, Alick, and Bud Holmes
Russian Railway Service Corps
Turner, Porter E. – correspondence
Contents: Access Points