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American Troops Intervene in Northern Russia: September 4, 1918

Location of Allied, Bolshevik, and anti-Bolshevik troops in Siberia
On September 4, 1918, American troops landed in Archangel, northern Russia, as part of an Allied intervention toward the end of World War I; American forces were also sent to Murmansk, near Finland, and to Vladivostok, in eastern Siberia.

Following a Bolshevik takeover of the Russian government in October 1917, Russia signed a peace treaty with the Central Powers in March 1918. With Russia no longer fighting with the Allies, the Eastern Front collapsed, allowing Germany to send troops that had previously been committed in the east to the Western Front, which the Allies were desperate to prevent.

So in the summer of 1918, the Allies sent thousands of troops to Russia, including 5,000 Americans to northern Russia and 8,000 Americans to eastern Siberia. They were tasked with reopening the Eastern Front, which they would try to accomplish by aiding anti-Bolshevik Russian forces (and the Czech Legion, 60,000 former Czech prisoners of war) who were willing to fight against the Central Powers. The troops were also meant to prevent stockpiles of unused supplies the Allies had previously sent to Russia from falling into German or Bolshevik hands.

Distribution of American troops in northern Russia
However, just a few months after the Allied arrival, World War I ended. Despite this, the Allied troops were kept in Russia even though there was no longer a need for a new Eastern Front. Their mission became more nebulous, compounded by the individual allies’ varying motives and priorities.

Morale dwindled among American and other Allied troops stationed in northern Russia, especially after the WWI armistice in November. They often didn’t understand why they had been sent to Russia in the first place, let alone why they were still there when the war was over. As they became increasingly discontent, some Allied forces refused to follow orders, and several mutinies occurred. Finally, in summer 1919, the Americans in north Russia were pulled out, and in April 1920 the last of the American intervention forces were withdrawn from Siberia.

Did you have any relatives involved in the Allied intervention in Russia? Tell us about it! Or you can learn more about the intervention in the collections “US Expeditionary Force, North Russia” and “WWI Supreme War Council” on Fold3.


  1. Paul Sangster says:

    As a senior medical student at the Tucson VA, I had the privilege to care for a man who told me that he had been with American Forces in Russia, fighting with the Whites against the Reds. This was a most amazing story to me, as few had ever heard that this happened, and it certainly was not in any history books used in school. He seemed a little “off the beam” for several reasons, although he was a most endearing and amusing man. I looked the story up (it was a lot harder in the days before the internet), and discovered that indeed it was true. He was bald as an apple, and he used to show me the “saber scars” on his scalp, which I couldn’t see.
    He claimed that he had “eczema” (emphysema), which he defined as a cold you never get over, and he swore that he used iodine to cure skin cancers.
    His two weeks’ stay in the VAH waiting for a procedure he didn’t need greatly enriched my life!
    There are a couple of books available (out of print, I think) about some soldiers’ experiences, one is American Soldiers in Siberia by Sylvian Kindall.

  2. N Teruya says:

    My great uncle was with the Allied Forces in Vladivostok and became a POW in Siberia. He wasn’t released until about 1920. I learned about it from my mom in an every-day conversation. I remember being shocked because the Russians were our allies in WWI. Needless to say, I had a lot of learning to do.

  3. jay jones says:

    my grandfather, burton mills, served with the 31st aef in Siberia in 1918-19. he married my russian grandmother and was on leave (his honeymoon) in vladivostok the night his platoon in company “B” was massacred in Romanovka. being platoon sargent he was always hauntedby being absent. he lamented “we had a deal with the bolos not to attack” being stationed near the suchan mines.

  4. My husband’s grandfather was one of the Michigan Polar Bears who served and fought out of Archangel. He wasn’t from Michigan, though, he was from Indiana. He was wounded and spent time in the hospital at Archangel. He was long gone from this world before I discovered his story, which I find fascinating.

    Thank you for writing a post about these forgotten soldiers and the sacrifices they made.

    • Kathy Handy says:

      My great uncle from Michigan was also with the Polar Bears. He served with the 310th Engineers there. Go to the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library Collection on-line and browse through family donated collections of the “Polar Bear Expedition.”

  5. Mary says:

    Do you know his name?

  6. Mark Dixon says:

    I visited the USSR in 1990 after graduating with a minor in Russian. Every school child in the Soviet Union was well aware of this American “invasion”. For years I had wondered what the real story was.

  7. William F Bellais says:

    My father was a soldier, enlisting in 1919. He went first to the Philippines and then his unit went to Vladivostok. He was an Army medical corpsman. He often told stories about his experiences. The one story I recall the most is how the Russian children had their underwear sewed on them. As a child, I understood that to mean they stitched undergarments to their skin, but I learned that he meant they were sewn to stay on permanently during the winter. He returned from Eastern Siberia, was discharged at the Presidio, and immediately went to Treasure Island to enlist in the Navy. He had all the Army he wanted to experience.

  8. Kathy H says:

    My grandfather, a British Cavalry officer, was apparently in Archangel at least from May to October 1919. He kept photo albums of his time there, which are in the possession of my cousin, in England. Mention is made of a Mr. Foster, with the American Y.M.C.A.

  9. Carol crawford says:

    In doing research for my DAR application, I was surprised to find that my grandfather, Malcolm MacGibbon, had enlisted in the service and was sent to Vladivostok. I don’t know much but am puzzled by the fact that he enlisted in Canada instead of the United States. It seems there might have been some connection with the YMCA, but I don’t know what that was about. Perhaps he was a correspondent, as he had worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He married a19 year old Russian girl named Olga, returned to the U.S. with her and I believe they had a son. He had left my mother to be raised by her grandmother when his wife (my grandmother) died in 1913, just months after my mother’s birth, so what little I know I pieced together myself. I just learned that he committed suicide in in Michigan in1923.

  10. BC says:

    I was fortunate enough to discover and purchase an American made Mosin Nagant 7.62x54R rifle made by Remington Arms. Beautiful tiger maple stock. Ironically it appraises quite low. That of course, means absolutely nothing to me. I collect the service rifles of America and that one is singular. I would never consider firing it. That rifle instills a patriotism within me and reveals our commitment to allies.

    It was altogether tragic. The devastating Great War for the purpose of reducing population. The weakened Russia falling to the cancerous MarxCom Socialism and anarcho-narcissist Bolshevik jews. Consider the wars since and even now from those origins.

    My grand father was drafted into that war at the age of thirty. He was a teamster and delivered ice. His Church of God (Anderson, IN) prevented him from fighting as a conditional pacifist so he served as a teamster for the mess. I have no information or records of his service. He was called in to report for selective service for WWII but owned a coal mining company and they exempted him as two of his sons were serving in the Pacific Theater.

    • R Tenor says:

      Know that Nicholas” troops killed Jews at the drop of a hat and the czar had no use for the poor who suffered under him in Woeld War I.. You would rise up against such treatment.

    • BC says:

      Agreed RT. We were Heebs that went converso once we realized that this was a challenge of survival. We’re just sick to death of the disgusting degradation’s that the Euro Jooz have been responsible for since they realized how gullible Americans really were. You know the truth. If not, you bought the time share in Florida already?

    • cananuk says:

      few people know of the devastation of these controlling bankers and bolshevik overlords. Even today american dual citizenships in gov called for another “pearl harbour” to hasten their agenda, thus 911, the phoney wars and our rights taken away. We may be in for another bolshevik revolution. Another 65?million dead perhaps. Cashless, chipped society with them at the helm is inevitable,.

    • BC says:

      Exactly. The treachery of 9/11 was equal to if not greater than Roosevelt/Rothschild’s provoking and then allowing Japan to strike. That was a war of greed (like most). Now I am finding and being informed of the red plan to bring us into “The American Revolution of 2017”. One century later. Consider the players, undermining, and the stealthful movements of the slow strike, the single but endless drip. They have already subdued generations with narcotic, alcohol, and altered moralities. We have much to learn by studying the past. Marx’s pre-Civil War activities spreading the total war into Europe/Asia and providing a solution to the overpopulation of the lower class.

    • B.A. says:

      Why do people still get their kicks by knocking the Jews most of whom have been running and fighting for their lives. Yes there are good and bad people in every race. Labeling all Jews as anarcho-narcissist screams of hate and inhumanity.

    • TZAZ says:

      You should be collecting Nazi memorabilia, you would have made a good one yourself.

  11. Richard Bush says:

    I bought a book in June on this subject, the name of it is, The White Generals by Richard Luckett second in June 1972 published by Viking Press inc. 392 pages. This is a very in depth and well researched work. This book shows how the First World War set up a century of Russian paranoia with the west.

  12. L Frisbie says:

    This is interesting – my Great Uncle was sent to Russia during WWI. He was in the Navy. Where? I don’t know.

    • Richard Bush says:

      Hello L. Frisbie,
      If you can find out what ship he was on I may be able to find out when and where he was at.

    • Mike Grobbel says:

      If he was sent to Murmansk or Archangel in north Russia (not Vladivostok in Siberia), he most likely aboard the USS Olympia. Eight officers and 100 sailors from the Olympia were put ashore in Murmansk on June 8, 1918. On July 30th, the Olympia’s band, along with two officers and 50 sailors were transferred to the British transport ship HMT Stephans which then sailed for Archangel, arriving on August 2nd.

      The 50 sailors were immediately attached to the British “Force B” and sent south down the railroad to find and engage the Bolshevik forces which had just withdrawn from Archangel.

      When the three ships carrying the 5,000 men of the ANREF arrived on Sept. 4th, they were greeted with a rousing rendition of “Hail to the Victors”. The Olympia band had been told that the 339th Infantry was composed of many men from Michigan so they chose to play the University of Michigan’s fight song for them!

  13. Don Heil says:

    I had heard these stories before and were surprised
    that they were true. I was also told that the US sent
    engineers and soldiers to the USSR in world war ll
    to build the Trans-Siberia Highway. I’m told that they
    were never allowed to return home. In part because the US never forced the issue with the USSR. In this time when we fight wars for the wrong reasons and bypass wars for the right ones. Carter was a fool, if ever we had a reason to go to war it was with Iran over the hostages and the taking of sovereign US
    territory ( the Embassies ). Since he did not act as
    President and only as wanting to be known as a
    peacemaker, we have paid the price with all these
    conflicts ever since. You could say this and the way
    we fled Afghanistan led rise to the fanatics that cut off
    peoples heads in the name of religion. The only way to end this is to take out the fanatics and their families
    that espouse this way of dealing with infidels. The only was to end this is too take them out is to imprison them for life or execute every one of them. You must fight fire with fire, since they will not allow
    people to live and let live. Some innocent die too but that is the price for inaction.

    • cananuk says:

      you might have something there but no you don`t. Are you aware the hostage taking was done because they wanted america to apologize for taking out an elected DEMOCRATIC pres in 53 only to install the Shaw? Have you looked into staged 911, the phoney wars, war on terrorism. Phonier than a six dollar bill. You need to balance your views away from television. The day ISIS or any other “terrorist” group attacks Israel, well, we might have someone that isn`t bought and paid for by the Israeliamerican government.

  14. Janice Ishikawa says:

    My Grandfather, Charles Douglas Roe, served with Detroit’s Own, The Polar Bear in Russia even though he was from Georgia. (Men from several other states were put with the larger unit from Michigan.) He served in the Amb Co 325 to May 15, 1918; and then in Company I, 339th Infantry to discharge in July, 1919.

    The Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan has developed the largest collection of manuscript and printed materials on the Polar Bear Expedition, consisting of over 110 individual collections of primary source material as well as numerous published materials. Bentley Historical Library, 1150 Beal Ave., Ann Arbor, MI, 48109-2113, (734) 764-3482. (NOTE: I donated a copy of the Company I, 339th Infantry photo that belonged to Charles Roe to the library.)

    The following is a description of the expedition from The Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan:

    The American military intervention at Archangel, Russia, at the end of World War I, nicknamed the “Polar Bear Expedition,” is a strange episode in American history. Ostensibly sent to Russia to prevent a German advance and to help reopen the Eastern Front, American soldiers found themselves fighting Bolshevik revolutionaries for months after the Armistice ended fighting in France.

    During the summer of 1918, the U. S. Army’s 85th Division, made up primarily of men from Michigan and Wisconsin (but other states as well), completed its training at Fort Custer, outside of Battle Creek, Michigan, and proceeded to England. While the rest of the division was preparing to enter the fighting in France, some 5,000 troops of the 339th Infantry and support units (one battalion of the 310th Engineers, the 337th Field Hospital, and the 337th Ambulance Company) were issued Russian weapons and equipment and sailed for Archangel, a Russian port on the White Sea, 600 miles north of Moscow.

    When American troops reached their destination in early September, they joined an international force commanded by the British that had been sent to northern Russia for purposes never made clear. Whatever the reasons for the intervention, however, the force was fighting the Bolsheviks who had taken power in Petrograd and Moscow the previous winter.

    The troops had been prepared to deploy to France and their equipment and clothing was designed for that atmosphere as well. They were ill prepared for the sub freezing temperatures they faced in Russia.

    The strategy of the expedition’s commanders was to advance south and east to join Russian and foreign anti-Bolshevik armies hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Fighting during the winter of 1918-1919 was concentrated in six areas scattered across Archangel Province in a semicircle south of the city.

    Two companies of the U. S. Army Transportation Corps arrived in Murmansk, 400 miles northwest of Archangel, in April 1919. Their duty was to maintain and operate the Murmansk railroad, running parallel to the Archangel-Vologda railroad but 200 miles farther west.

    A winter of fighting Bolsheviks and wondering why they were still in combat when the war with Germany had ended led to severe morale problems among the American troops, including an alleged mutiny in March 1919 by members of one company in Archangel, and the presentation of an antiwar petition by members of another company in the same month. The troops were ready for the new American commander who arrived at Archangel in April 1919 with orders to withdraw. As soon as navigation opened in June, the American forces left northern Russia. British troops withdrew a few months later, but the anti-Bolshevik government they left behind held the city until February 1920.

    • Ted comfort says:

      My father was also with the Michigan polar bears 1918 to 1919. There is a video, Voices of a Never Ending Dawn by Pamela Peak.

  15. madeline hartmann says:

    In the 1950’s a Capt Richard Wyrough did a m.a. thesis at Geargetown University. on this subject

  16. Thomas Suttles says:

    My father, Charles M Suttles was in Siberia and I think he referred his unit as the Wolfhound Division. He talked little of it or his time in the Army. He mustered out at the San Francisco Presidio around 1922 where he met and married my mother. He did tell me once, that he served with General Pershing at the Texas border chasing Pancho Via and later in the Philippenes.

    • Nancy says:

      My grandfather told me a similar story in 1968. I was only 9 but I remember him saying he fought against Spanish speaking. I thought he said he was in the Spanish American war so it didn’t make sense. He was in the Philippines for sure

  17. Clarence R. Newberry, Jr. says:

    My father,Clarence R. Newberry, Sr. never talked about his time in the service. His enlistment record states he was in Novitskay. Kazanka, Peryaliva, Urasli, Blademar, Alrtandeya, Novelskeya, Sochan. and Perthia during the summer of 1919. He was a section hand on the railroad and we assume he worked on the railroad in Russia.

  18. Warren Anderson says:

    My paternal Grandfather, Arthur Anderson, from Evanston, IL. Was in Vladivostok during WWI. I never was able to speak to him about his service, but my father had, and now I have, photo/postcards with U.S. soldiers there at the time. I have to find them again, and am trying to find what unit he may have served with.

    Thanks for the story and responses.

  19. Bob Underdown says:

    My step-grandfather Herman Phelan and his brother Carl were in the US Navy and met in Murmansk for the first since they’d left home in 1917. We have a few faded photographs of polar bears and locals. Herman also took a photo of the HMS Argus and HMS Furious operating together — the first Royal Navy aircraft carriers.

  20. Susie Cute says:

    Two great uncles served with the Michigan Polar Bear Unit in Russia. One returned – one did not. Killed in March 1919 Bolshie Ozerka. The uncle who returned was never the same.

    war is indeed hell.

    • I think honor and gratitude would be a fitting tribute to all our brave men who served, whenever and wherever but especially in these forgotten, hidden “little incidents.” I’m pleased to see that at least some family members of some of the men know their stories!

  21. Virginia Thorwart says:

    I stumbled upon this bit of interesting American History while researching and documenting our family military history. Fred D’Amico is the grandfather of our Daughter-in-Law Barbara. Fred D’Amico was born March 6, 1903. He entered eternal rest on February 4,1960. His military career began in December 1919 when at age 16 he joined the United States Army. He served with the American Expeditionary Army at Vladivostok, Siberia. Without grace or glory, the last troops left Siberia on April 20, 1920. The 27th and 31st Infantries returned to the Philippines. In 1920 Fred served in Manila, Philippines and in June 1921 at age 18 he served in Peking, China and then went on to serve in Japan and Hawaii. After military service Fred was an interpreter at the courthouse assisting Italian immigrants with their citizenship papers. At the time of his death he was an engineer with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

  22. Paul Sweet says:

    My grandfather, Ira H. Sweet, served in Company A, 339th Infantry, and was stationed at Archangel during this time.



  24. Chris Dickon says:


    Pls correct email address on previous post to [email protected]

  25. Skipper Steely says:

    Just read my Kindle book on General Wilds P. Ricardson’s role on extracting the soldiers. And, we wonder why Russia has hated us for so many years!

  26. Susan King says:

    My father, who was 21 years older than my mom, was in Vladivostok during WWI.
    Like many others, I at first thought the story could not be true. His name was Benjamin Adlebert Thorp and he was with the army. During WWII he followed construction and eventually worked on the facility in Oak Ridge and a Navy base out in the Mohave Desert. Very high security both places. My older brother Ben remembers both areas. These men saw a lot of history.

  27. My grandfather, Arthur “Neeka” Rice from Alpena was one of the 5000 men sent to Siberia. These men became known as “Polar Bears” and their expedition is known as the “Polar Bear Expedition. Most of the men sent were from Michigan, with a few from indiana and Ohio, “Because they were used to the cold weather.”
    I only know a little about his time there because my grandfather wouldn’t talk about it, but there were many men who died from the extreme cold because they were sent over unprepared for the harsh winter. If it wasn’t for the kindness of the villagers who gave them food and appropriate clothing, the death toll would have been catastrophic.
    There is a burial place at White Chapel Cemetery where there is a polar bear erected in memory of those who were sent to Siberia. I believe there are 28 men buried there, recovered in 1928 and 1936. They hold a memorial service, hosted by the Polar Bear Association and White Chapel Cemetery every Memorial Day. There is also a Memorial Home in Frankenmuth, Michigan. There is a commentary written and directed by a granddaughter of another hero, which has been played on PBS. I think it was first released about 4 years ago. I am honored to be a descendent of a man who bore so much for us.

  28. To John W. Allen.

    There have been many records lost through a fire in one of the military storage facilities. You might have more luck checking the state library where your father enlisted. I was able to find draft registration records on my grandfather and his brother, both from WWI there. Also, the Daughters of the American Revolution also have kept many records. They are available and that is how I found out so much about my great uncle.

  29. Scott M. Thomas says:

    A few years ago I was researching a distant cousin who had been killed in WWI. I discovered that he had been killed in Russia and that he had been part of the Polar Bears. During the research I came across the Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. They have overall history along with photos, maps, diaries and much more. Here is the website:

  30. Monroe McBride says:

    An excellent, detailed account of the intervention is provided in the book Russian Sideshow. I recommend it.

  31. David Gray says:

    My wife’s great uncle , Edwin Mertens was killed in combat with the Michigan National Guard unit in Russia. His body was not returned, per his sister, my wife’s grandmother.

    • Have you checked with the Polar Bear Memorial Home in Frankenmuth, MI? They are a great resource and may have updated information, since 2 trips were made ro Siberia to recover bodies of our soldiers who died there.

    • Mike Grobbel says:

      In addition to leading the association of volunteers that conducts the annual Memorial Day service for the Polar Bears, I am also a member of the Board of Directors of the Michigan’s Military & Space Heroes Museum in Frankenmuth, MI, which has an extensive collection of Polar Bear displays, information and artifacts.

      The Polar Bear Association’s 1942 Reunion Program lists the names of all their war dead and indicates when their remains were recovered and returned to the USA. The list indicated that the remains of Cpl. Edward L. Mertens of Company L, 339th Inf. Reg. had not been recovered.

      On Sept. 27, 1918, Companies K, L and MG of the 339th were ordered to cross a half-destroyed bridge over the Emtsa River near Kodish and then stage an attack on the Bolshevik forces camped on the east bank of the river. Cpl. Mertens was killed in action during the battle, along with six others. In addition, 24 Americans were wounded.

  32. David Gray says:

    That unit was the 339th Infantry Regiment that Ed Mertens served with in North Russia. Also note that the 31st Infantry Regiment Associaton once had a fine history of that unit’s time in Siberia, it might still be available on the web. I am a member of the 31st’s Assoc. and have read it.

  33. Mike Almer says:

    One of the American units sent to Siberia in 1918 was the US Army’s 27th Infantry Regiment. That unit, now a part of the 25th Infantry Division, fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam (where I served in the 2nd Bn, 27th Inf.) and in Iraq/Afghanistan. The 27th earned its nickname, the Wolfhounds, from its service in Siberia. And anyone who has served with the Wolfhounds, or with the 25th Division, is very aware of the 27th history in the Siberian campaign.

  34. John Neary says:

    I have no connection with this episode but as a collector of cribbage boards I have acquired a board marked “AEF Siberia 1918”. Research told me that a regiment from Detroit and another from the southern states were ther and still have an arctic emblem in their colours I was not aware that the British also took part.

  35. We have my Father’s scrapbook from his Navy Days following WWI. He left SF. went to the Philipines, then to the Yangze to guard the Treaty Ports, on to Japan and lastly in “Vlady”. It appears that the sailors had a very good time.
    Lots of parties and local girlfriends. He has a page with all the impt. Russian words and phrases. He was one cute sailor! It was hard for us to believe that he had such a good time. We only knew him as a Vice-President of the third largest bank in the US.

  36. Thomas M Quirk says:

    My Regiment The 27th ‘ Wolfhounds ‘ 25th Inf Division got the nickname for its service in Russia. Great Outfit.

  37. Claude Mitchell says:

    My grandfather Robert B. Mitchell served with the 31st Infantry, Co. H, in Siberia from 11/11/19 to 2/15/20.

  38. Michael Berry says:

    I have heard of this Allied intervention recently and have a book about it waiting for a price reduction on Amazon. I thoroughly enjoy this site’s articles and the comments that add a personal rememberance or connection but the trolls who always have to post their religious or politcal biases are a real pain. Please go to some other site, this is a historical site. Is there a moderator available that can block these dweebs?

  39. James O. Morse says:

    I have a paperback copy of a book originally published in hardback in 1958 that covers some of this material. Written by E. M. Halliday and entitled “The Ignorant Armies, it was part of a series named “The Award Books. Military Library.” Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-7526.

  40. Mike Grobbel says:

    The American North Russia Expeditionary Force (ANREF), consisted of the 339th Infantry Regiment, the 1st Battalion of the 310th Engineers, 337th Field Hospital, and 337th Ambulance Company. These were all elements of the 85th Infantry Division (also known as the Custer Division) and they were sent to fight the Bolshevik Red Army in North Russia as part of the Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War. Immediately upon their arrival in Archangel on Sept. 4, 1918, the American forces were placed under British command and sent to fight alongside British, French and Canadian forces, including the 67th & 68th Batteries of the 16th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery.

    Upon their return to the US beginning in June of 1919, the ANREF veterans adopted the nickname “Polar Bears”, which also became the 339th Infantry Regiment’s name.

    The British Army organized the “North Russia Relief Force” in May 1919 to replace the withdrawing ANREF troops. This relief force was made up of volunteers and included many Australian soldiers.

    As part of this same Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War, during the second half of 1918 a similar contingent of US Army Soldiers from the 27th and 31st Infantry Regiments were sent from their garrisons in China and the Philippines to Vladivostok in the far eastern portion of Siberia. They were organized as the American Expeditionary Force Siberia. The 31st Infantry is known as the “Polar Bear Regiment” while the 27th is known as the “Wolfhounds”.

    Earlier in 1918 the US had recruited civilian volunteers to staff the “Russian Railway Service Corp”, which was sent to Siberia to upgrade and operate the Trans-Siberian Railway as part of this Intervention.

    In the spring of 1919 the US Army recruited volunteer soldiers from the Western Front in France to form the 167th and 168th Companies of the Railroad Transportation Corps, which was sent to Murmansk, Russia for the purpose of maintaining control and operating the railroad linking Murmansk and Kem.

    My grandfather (Cpl. Clement Grobbel, Co. I, 339th Inf. Reg.) was one of the ANREF soldiers. A majority of the men in the ANREF were from Michigan and after they returned home, the veterans formed the Polar Bear Association. Their Association lobbied for the return of their war dead who remained buried in the North Russia tundra. In 1929, a mission under the auspices of the VFW recovered the remains of 84 US soldiers and returned them to the USA in November of that year. On Memorial Day 1930, 45 of those soldiers were interred at the foot of the Polar Bear Monument in White Chapel Cemetery in Troy, MI. The Polar Bear Association continued to hold this annual Memorial Day service for their fallen until old age eventually caught up with them.

    A successor association, of which I am president, continues their tradition by conducting an annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Polar Bear Monument in honor and remembrance of the “Polar Bears”.

    • For Mike Goebel: I have so appreciated what you do to keep the memory of the “Polar Bears” alive. Sometime soon I hope to take my grandchildren to the Memorial Day service, so they will know that what their great great grandfather did was remarkable and honorable. I don’t think they “get it”, yet.

    • Janice Ishikawa says:

      Thanks for all the information you have provided here and at your own website. Excellent!


    • Mike Grobbel says:

      Thanks Janice for your kind words!

      The public is welcome to join us at 11:00 AM on Monday, May 30, 2016 at White Chapel Cemetery in Troy, MI for the next Memorial Day service for the “Polar Bears”.

      In the meantime, if you are on Facebook, join us at our “Polar Bear Memorial Association” group.

  41. Lois S. Canaday says:

    Would like to hear about the large number of American servicemen who were captured during WWII. As court reporter for the War Claims Commission after war, two appeared re claim denial. One was free only because someone who escaped reported that an English speaking individual was back in camp he had escaped from. General Clay took support in nd brought the soldier back to the base. The other managed to get free alone. Because they didn’t fall within the guidelines..not at war with Russia, claims were denied. Referred to Congress for special Act. Never knew if they had later been paid. Always figured if two were freed, there must have been many more.

  42. Davis says:

    Were any minorities involved in this conflict?

  43. Joan Tester says:

    My Mother always told me her older brother was sent to Vladivostok in Siberia during WWI, she said he worked at the docks, don’t know if that meant he was in the Navy or Army. He was from West Virginia, both are gone now so have no one to verify information.

  44. Kathy H says:

    I’m not sure if I can add pictures here, but the inside cover of the one album I have from my grandfather, Lt Col Vivian Lionel Bennett (british cavalry), reads as follows:
    May ’19 to Oct ’19
    Sred-Mekrenga, Government of Archangel, 80m South of latter, on Mekrenga River (tributary of Emtsa, (tributary of Dwina)) comprised 6 villages:
    Gora = wing HQ and guns and 1/2 Squadron cav (R) 1 corp (reserve).
    Nagora = 1 Corp Infantry (British), 1 corp (Russian).
    Cherez-Gora – 2 Corps Infantry (Russian)
    Chorna = 1 Corp Infantry, 1 Corp M.G.
    Zagora = 1 MG Corp
    ________ = 1 Infantry Corp

    Above situated in a clearing of the Siberian forest, inside blockhouses and misc.
    Defences protected an all-round line of 4 miles

    The Bolshevik troops made several unsuccessful attacks to capture the garrison, which was really the key to the Allied positions of the Archangel forces (Maj. Gen Sir E. Ironsides, K.C.B)

    So far as possible, the garrison is always comprised:
    1/2 Squadron (Siberia) Russian Dragoons (50 men)
    1 Battalion Russian Infantry (800 men)
    1/2 Battalion British infantry (300 men)
    1 Corp British Machine Gunners (80 men)
    1 Battery British 18-pounders (50 men)
    1 Battery Russian 3 (?inch?/mich?) guns (80 men)
    1 4.2 howitzer (british)
    1 Squad US Engineers (30 men)

    Known offically as the Left Wing, Column Seleskokoe.

    ((one picture shows a Michigan bridge, erected by US engineers!)

    • Mike Grobbel says:

      Your grandfather’s album sounds like a very unique family and historical keepsake!

      If you are a Fold3 subscriber, you can create a Memorial Person Page containing facts about Lt. Col. Bennett along with your scanned and uploaded photos.

      For a simple example, here is the Memorial Page for my grandfather:

      Either in addition or as an alternative to that, you could contact me and I can create a simple web page for him using your info and scanned photos. Click on my name above and it will take you to our association’s web site where you will find my contact info. by clicking on my name wherever it appears on that web page.

  45. Brian D. King says:

    In Siberia the 27th United States Infantry fought. It is where they were given the name “Wolfhounds”. The regiment still has a Russian wolfhound for a mascot and his name is Kolchak. We took pride in knowing we were the only unit to actually engage the Russians in combat and win. Lots of history there.
    That is all, carry on, Wolfhound!!!

  46. Bud Squair says:

    My great-uncle, William John Henderson, was in the North West Mounted Police (fore runner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and was moved to a military unit and shipped to Vladivostok in 1919. He contracted meningitis and is buried in a military cemetery. The Canadian Navy took replacement tombstones over some years ago to replace those that had been vandalized.

  47. John Alexander Adams says:

    This is a very interesting article Trevor. Both of my grandfathers were in The Great War. One as a Lieutenant pilot in the Air Core and the other as an ambulance driver. I’m not sure how to obtain details of their service. My pilot grandfather went down 13 times.

  48. Leslie Tow says:

    When I was growing up there was a large embroidery on my grandparents wall. It had the Marine Corps eagle at the top of the hanging wire, and the embroidery itself was of the world with an eagle on top clutching arrows and an olive branch, and two crossed flags behind. It said “In memory of my cruise…..China, Russia, Japan, and the Philippine Islands”. I knew hardly anything about my grandfather’s military career except that he had his face blown off in the Philippines in 1920 while singlehandedly fighting off several thousand insurgents so his platoon could escape. After my parents death, my siblings and I came across Russian script issued after the fall of the Czars and before the Communist government. The script was issued in Vladivostok, so I’m assuming my grandfather, Richard L. Avery, served there. Does anyone else have a similar embroidery, or information on Marines in Russia in 1917-1920?

    • Mike Grobbel says:

      According to the book “Russian Sideshow – America’s Undeclared War, 1918-1920”, the USS Brooklyn arrived in Vladivostok, Siberia on March 1, 1918, carrying a group of US Marines in addition to its complement of US Navy sailors.

      On June 29, 1918, hostilities erupted in the city of Vladivostok and an armed contingent of US Marines under the command of Lt. Grove went ashore to join other Allied forces in protecting their consulates and citizens. By nightfall, the fighting had ceased and the armed guard at the American Consulate was reduced to eight US Marines. The US Army’s 27th and 31st Infantry Regiments arrived in Vladivostok during August 1918.

      Other US Navy ships in Vladivostok included the USS Albany, New Orleans and South Dakota.

      On July 31, 1919, the USS New Orleans disembarked 50 US Marines and 175 US Army soldiers of Company B, 31st Inf. Reg. at Tethue, a town about 300 miles up the coast from Vladivostok. They attacked a group of Bolshevik partisans, killing five and capturing a Lt. Col. According to Company B’s first sergeant, he recognized the Bolshevik Lt. Col as a former US Army soldier who he had served with previously in the Philippine Islands. They ordered the Lt. Col. to dig 6 graves, the sixth of which was used for the Lt. Col.

    • Leslie Tow says:

      Thanks, Mike. That sounds about right for my grandfather’s timeline. I found out that my library has the book you mentioned, so I’ll have a look at it.

    • Mike Grobbel says:

      The link takes you to a photo of the armored cruiser USS Brooklyn (CA-3), anchored off Vladivostok, in 1918. Photo by American official photographer.

      Photo #Q 69551 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums. Part of the American First World War Official Exchange Collection.

  49. Leslie Tow says:

    Should have mentioned that my grandfather enlisted in Washington state and went through basic at Mare Island.

  50. Doc Grauberger says:

    My Grandfather served in Poland and Russia as part of Heller’s Blue Army after the main fighting in WWI was over. Was this part of this story or a completely different front all together?

  51. Hola! I’ve been reading your weblog for a while now and finally
    got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Texas!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!

  52. Robert Willett says:

    Great addition. I wrote a book about both the North Russiand and Siberian episodes, titled Russian Sideshow.

    My wife’s uncle went with the 339th Regiment to Archangel and was taken with the flu, came home and died in March 1919.

  53. Charlotte Teeter says:

    My father served in Siberia from Sept. 19, 1919 to Jan. 23, 1920 received the Victory Medal with Siberian clasp. He returned to serve as a guard at Alcatraz when it was still a military prison. Unfortunately, he died when I was a child so I did not get to ask him about these interesting times.

  54. Craig McEwan says:

    I’m writing an article to be published in the Cochise County Historical Journal this fall about the many young men from this Arizona county that ended up in Siberia in September of 1918. I have the names from local newspapers of 47 soldiers that trained at Camp Fremont. From there they dispersed, with many transported west to the East. My trouble is finding lists of Siberian veterans. The National Archives lost most of this group’s documents in a warehouse fire in St. Louis in the 70’s. Any ideas on records? Mr. Willett, I really enjoyed (& cited) your book on the subject.

    • I would check with the Daughters of the American Revolution. They have an archive of information. I found out about my great-uncle’s movements during WWI from them.

      Also, you might want to check out your state library. Many of them have a genealogy division and have access to much of that information

    • Craig McEwan says:

      Thank you Marilynn! Both of your ideas are avenues I had not thought about pursuing.

    • Chris Dickon says:

      Be sure to look at the University of Michigan site at

    • Robert Willett says:

      Thanks, Craig, now I am trying to find my research papers. I had a complete roster of the 31st Infantry Regiment in Siberia but we moved and some of my stuff got put away and I can’t locate it at the moment. I belong to the 31st Association and recommend that you contact the and the 27th Regiment Association. I think they both have web sites.

    • Craig McEwan says:

      You wrote a very thorough and interesting account of the Interventions! I have contacted the 31st. They have recently had their expert on this subject pass away. I really hope you can find that list from the 31st (all my study group would be from the 31st). Edith Faulstich received a list of 3,500 veterans of Siberia, but, after contacting the Hoover Institute, they could not find any such document. Thanks for your help, and it’s a privilege of the computer age to be conversing with you.

    • Craig McEwan says:

      Hello Robert. I was wondering…instead of you searching through moving boxes for that roster of the 31st Inf. Regiment, would you be able to tell me where I could locate such a list? Would it be somewhere within the 31st Association?

    • Robert Willett says:


      I did find a box on North Russia but can’t yet find Siberia. I do remember that the list was by unit and was in the Regimental newspaper, I think called the Sentinel. But I am not exactly sure where I found the newspaper. I believe it was in a Hoover Institution collection of Edith Faulstich or Joseph Longuevan.

      I’ll keep looking, though…


  55. John Pfister says:

    My uncle, Edmond Atkinson (1895 – 1987), was with the Michigan Polar Bears at Archangel during WW I. I have some postcards with pictures from there and a letter he sent home. He returned to Michigan with TB and was expected to die, but he married his Army nurse who helped him recover his health. After getting a law degree, he had a very long career in Tucson and Phoenix. For many years, he attended the Polar Bear Association’s annual gathering. I have some of their newsletters.

  56. J G Horn says:

    When I was a teen in the ’60s, my father discovered that a man from a hamlet near our church in Shrewsbury PA had been involved in the Siberia operation. Spurgeon Keeney was not a soldier but a member of an aid organization, I think either the Red Cross or the YMCA. He was used as a negotiator in helping to get the Czech Legion past some of the Soviet aligned bandit gangs along the eastern end of the Siberian Railroad. He was also involved with UN relief and development operations after WW II and at one point worked with actor Danny Kaye to help children’s relief. Dad got him to speak at our church Father Son banquet, quite different from the usual practice of getting a nearby pro sports figure.
    Spurgeon Keeney impressed me very much as a true pacifist, surprisingly plausible as one who could gain the respect of the leaders of lawless bandit gangs.