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Polar Bears

 
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Mario



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BerichtGeplaatst: 08 Mrt 2006 20:23    Onderwerp: Polar Bears Reageer met quote

In diverse topics kwamen de Polar Bears al eens aan de orde. Patrick Mestdag was volgens mij de eerste die ons wees op dit stukje minder bekende oorlog in Rusland.



he "American Intervention in Northern Russia, 1918-1919," nicknamed the "Polar Bear Expedition," was a U.S. military intervention in northern Russia at the end of World War I. Since many of these soldiers originated from Michigan, the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, an archive documenting Michigan history, has collected materials related to this event since the 1960s. The Bentley has amassed one of the largest groups of materials on this topic, consisting of over sixty individual collections of primary source material as well as numerous published materials.

In 2004, the Bentley proposed a project to digitize all of the Polar Bear materials in order to increase access as well as protect and secure the fragile originals. In 2005, faculty and students from the University of Michigan School of Information began a research project investigating next generation finding aids. The Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections are the first example of rethinking traditional archival finding aids to provide better access to primary sources on the web. We are experimenting with different ideas for displaying archival content as well as implementing added functions so that researchers can interact with online collections using collaborative tools.

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http://polarbears.si.umich.edu/
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BerichtGeplaatst: 08 Mrt 2006 22:05    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Eerder plaatste ik dit boek online voor de liefhebbers qua Polar Bears.
http://www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/viewtopic.php?t=2448

Daarna volgde nog een ander nieuwsbericht.
http://www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/viewtopic.php?t=2448

Dat laatste interesseerde me en ik ben eens gaan mailen, voornamelijk ook omdat al die Nederlandse namen erin voorkwamen. Na enkele emails via dhr Huizenga ben ik bij een museum uitgekomen die de volgende informatie voor me had. Met dank aan Chris Kleinjans van het Hollandmuseum.

Quote:
The mission of the NREF was never completely resolved prior to their arrival at Archangel. They had been sent by President Wilson at the behest of Britain. Britain¹s motivation was to try and destabilize the Bolshevik threat. Wilson, while not enamored with the Bolsheviks, could not actively go against them for fear of looking like a hypocrite and not allowing the Russians to choose their own government, even though the elections in Russia had been a joke and then invalidated by the Bolsheviks. As you know, this was a confusing time in Russian history, and that spilled over into the confusion about the mission. On paper though, the mission was to protect massive stores of supplies, intended for use on the Eastern front, from falling into German hands after the Brest treaty. But again, as the American Troops were under British authority, the mission was more air then substance.
The 339th infantry, along with the 1st Battalion of the 310th engineers and additional support troops, was chosen because their Division, the 85th, organized in Fort Custer Michigan, had already been slated as a replacement division for the AEF, thus, splitting troops off from this unit wouldn't hurt it's fighting efficiency as they were to be split up any way. There have been some stories told to the effect that these men were chosen because they were used to living in cold weather because they were from Michigan and Wisconsin. This is pretty much tripe. The troops happened to come from a very localized area because, unlike the 2nd World War and later conflicts, the army was raised in a more regional manner, with a cantonment (training camp) handling the troops within a certain geographic boundary. It was the countries first attempt at raising a large army since the Civil War, so they went off the template they had. Around 4500 U.S. Troops were sent, casualties were around 300 I believe, most from the Spanish Influenza which they caught from boarding contaminated ships for their ride to Archangel. The men were dying before they even made landfall. Because the action was sporadic and consisted mostly of company or battalion size engagements, there were never a lot of casualties in comparison with the western front. Also, the U.s. Troops spent the majority of their time on the defensive, holding a series of fortified blockhouses at critical points. The Bolshevik forces so outnumbered the Allies it was the only was to fight. Of this group we have found about 60 men from Holland MI and the surrounding area in that group. Because of the lack of record keeping that's about as close a
number as we have. The area at the time was about 90% Dutch a few pioneers from 1847, but mostly their descendents. We do have records of some recent immigrants from Holland who were swept into the AEF, but none of them were Polar Bears.
The Polar Bears arrived in September of 1918, and were immediately sent forward. As an interesting sidebar, they had their 03 Springfield taken from them in England and were given Moisen-Nagant rifles, so they could utilize the ammunition stores, I'm sure the veterans among you know how unalike some weapons can be, so they were sent up with unfamiliar weapons and no Machine Guns, as they had not arrived yet. As I mentioned before, the Polar Bears were always outnumbered as the Bolshevik total force numbered in the tens of thousands. Records indicate that the American Forces spent far more time on the front than their English counterparts, which lead to some hostility.
They fought their hardest action at the battle of Toulgas on November 11, 1918 (ironic, no?) the same day the war ended in Europe. Three small companies held a Russian division at a critical bridge for two days until reinforcements could come up. By this point the White Sea had frozen and they had to wait until spring to be extracted, if that was to occur. The Bolsheviks did not rest after the Armistice in Europe but continued to push the allied forces back to Archangel. Trading ground for time, the allies fell back, always aware that if they were pushed into the city there was nowhere else to fall back to. In addition, the supply situation was getting thin at this point as the frozen lake prevented resupply. It was turning into a last stand scenario when spring finally came. Under heavy pressure from the citizens of the state of Michigan, the President had ordered them withdrawn as soon as possible. The American contingent was withdrawn in March, 1919, and arrived back in Detroit on the 4th of July. They were taken to Ft. Custer and discharged.
There are very few personal accounts from this expedition, and there are no Polar Bears alive today that I know of. There are a number of archival
resources located here, and at the Blackely Library in Ann Arbor. Such primary sources of information can, to a degree, be found on line. Post War writing on the subject has followed a couple of lines of thought initially after the war, there was the glory of the unit writing. After WW2 and the heating up of the cold war, there was writing that dealt mostly with brave men facing a godless heathen enemy. More balanced and nuanced books have still to be written. However, the website has links to those.


De website waarnaar verwezen word is deze van de Polar Bear Memorial
Association:
http://pages.prodigy.net/mvgrobbel/photos/polarbear.htm
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BerichtGeplaatst: 10 Mrt 2006 22:00    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Lijst met relevante boeken. In ieder geval één soldaat die een VC verdiende.

Sgt. Sam Pearse, VC, MM

http://pages.prodigy.net/mvgrobbel/photos/polarbearbooks.htm
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BerichtGeplaatst: 06 Apr 2006 17:13    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote


Marcia Dunham, YWCA worker, North Russia, 16 Nov 1918
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BerichtGeplaatst: 06 Apr 2006 18:22    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Het begon in topic Raad een Schip pagina 6 Smile

http://www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/viewtopic.php?t=1751&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=150


kaartje dat zegt veel !


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Laatst aangepast door Patrick Mestdag op 25 Mei 2006 11:43, in totaal 1 keer bewerkt
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Mario



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BerichtGeplaatst: 03 Mei 2006 19:53    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Local soldiers endured difficult 1918 mission

Quote:
The 1918 influenza outbreak proved far more than just a common cold.

Supposedly originated at Fort Riley, Kan., as a bird flu, it followed American troops to the trenches of Europe and rapidly spread all over the world, claiming in just six months far more lives than were lost over the entire five-year course of World War I.

The U.S. Army's 339th Infantry, the 1st Battalion of the 310th Engineers, the 337th Field Hospital and the 337th Ambulance Company - in all, 143 officers and 4,344 enlisted men who were later known as "The American Expeditionary Force, North Russia" - were struck by Spanish Flu at sea while on their way to Arkhangelsk, Russia's supply port on the White Sea.

With some 500 men put on sick call, the expedition, armed with Mosin-Nagant rifles produced at factories in Chicopee and Springfield for the army of Czar Nicholas II, landed in Arkhangelsk, or Archangel as it was spelled back then, on Sept. 4, 1918.

There, the members of the expeditionary force joined the Allies, an international coalition of military forces that included British, French, Canadian, Italian, Polish, Serbian and White Russian troops involved in operations against Bolsheviks.

The expedition was sent by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson at the request of British and French governments "to guard military stores," "to prevent the northern parts of Russia from becoming bases for German submarines," and "to render such aid as may be acceptable to the (White) Russians in the organization of their own self-defense" against the Bolsheviks. However, it was the Americans' turn to play sidekicks to the British, who led the coalition and hoped to march triumphantly into Moscow with a force some 20,000-strong.

Thus, despite their stated mission, all able Americans almost immediately upon their arrival were sent to join the fight along a 450-mile front.

Most of the expeditionary force volunteers and draftees had come from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Yet the records of "Detroit's Own" Polar Bear Memorial Association, dedicated to the campaign, identify some of the expedition members as hailing from Western Massachusetts.

Pvt. Leroy Bartlett, 1st Lt. Charles H. Sears, both of Holyoke, Pvt. Ralph V. McNamee, of Agawam, and Pfc. Raymond R. Vanslet, of the Florence section of Northampton, are among the names listed at http://polarbears.si.umich.edu/ which is a great source of information on the expedition.

Unfortunately, John P. O'Connor, a family historian at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum in Springfield and genealogy columnist for The Republican's Plus Papers, whom I asked for help in tracking down background on some of these men through various local records, couldn't find any substantive trace.

"I gave it a good shot, but it's not doable. I think this is really a dead end. I did read an awful lot (of the Archangel campaign) though," O'Connor said.

His research on Sears found, for example, he was the son of Thomas H. and Mary A. F. Sears and was born in November 1895. His father had been born in Ireland in 1853, and his mother was born in Massachusetts in 1858. The family lived at 23 Fairfield Ave. in Holyoke. Charles was the sixth child and had one brother, Frank M., and four sisters, Catherine, Esther, Ella and Jannie. Charles Sears returned safely from the war and, as of 1920, was living at Camp Custer, Mich., an Army post.

"My guess is that he never got married. I couldn't find him in 1930 Census," O'Connor said.

For the expeditionary force, which also included 50 Marines from the USS Olympia and was later reinforced with two companies of railway troops - the 167th and 168th Transportation Corps, another 750 men, the campaign continued until August 1919 when the last American detachment sailed back home.

Undertaken with insufficient preparation in an atmosphere of political intrigue, relying on "dead wrong" intelligence and having uncertain goals, the expeditionary force's military intervention wound up experiencing some 500 American deaths.

There are 449 British, American and Canadian graves at Kuznetchevskoe cemetery in Arkhangelsk.



http://www.masslive.com/metroeastplus/republican/index.ssf?/base/news-1/114655861227230.xml&coll=1
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BerichtGeplaatst: 25 Mei 2006 9:30    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Nog meer bears...

Quote:
AUSTRALIANS IN THE RANKS OF THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE IN THE RUSSIAN NORTH

Soon after the withdrawal of the revolutionary Russia out of participants of the WW1 Great britain sent a military mission consisting of 560 people, to the Russian seaports of Murmansk and Archangelsk. Its aim was to train the White Army troops and to ensure that a large amount of military equipment dispatched earlier to supply the Tsar's army was not captured by Germany.

The mission, landed in Archangelsk, was formed on a volunteer basis and consisted of British and servicemen native of dominions. It included 6 Australians - three officers and three sergeants. The next, a more numerous mission, which landed in Archangelsk in the beginning of 1918, consisted of British, Canadian and American battalions and small units of French, Polish, Serbian and Italian armies. Several Australian volunteers were included into a so called Elope unit which landed in Murmansk. Later on British and several Australians amongst them were transferred to Archangelsk. The Syren mission stayed in Murmansk.




http://www.argo.net.au/andre/NREFENFIN.htm
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BerichtGeplaatst: 12 Aug 2006 14:52    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Quote:
RUSSIA 1919

The 1917 Revolution in Russia presented a serious problem to the Allies. The Bolsheviks wanted to withdraw Russia from the War, which would free German forces for the Western Front. When Civil War broke out the Allies supported the White Russian forces. By 1918 the War in Europe was over and the Allied powers were not keen to become involved in a new war in Russia. Allied troops had been sent Vladivostock and Archangel to protect the large ordnance stores there and another force at Murmansk to prevent the Germans using it as a submarine base. In North Russia the British forces undertook operations against the Germans and their White Finn allies in Finland. The last British military presence left Russia in 1922.

White Russian Awards to the Glosters:

Lieut. William Bray - Order of Saint Vladimir (4th class)

Lieut. Cecil Spencer Dyer - Order of saint Anne (3rd class with swords)

Colonel Henry Needham - .Order of Saint Vladimir (3rd class with swords)..- Order of Saint Stanislaus (1st class with swords) - Mention In Despatch (1920 for Archange)

Roll of Honour:

Lieutenant Gerald Noel Gosling - killed 7th July 1919 - Archangel Allied Cemetery.

Sergeant William Cox .- 26th February 1920 - Novorossisk Nwe Cemetery.

Private A.W. Barnfield (7th Batt).- 2nd April 1919 - Batum British Military Cemetery.

Private W.G. Rambridge (2nd Batt) - 17th January 1919 - Batum British Military Cemetery.

Private Charles Emery (att. 2nd Batt) - killed in action 5th March 1919 - Tiflis British Military Cemetery.

Private Charles J. Jones (7th Batt) - 11th June 1919 - Tiflis British Military Cemetery.

Private William Owen (att. 2nd Batt) - 5th February 1919 - Tiflis British Military Cemetery.

Private Alfred C. Egbert (2nd Batt) - died of cholera 20th May 1919 - Erivan Armenian Cemetery.

Private Albert E. Butler (7th Batt) - died of pneumonia 18th January 1919 - Baku British Military Cemetery.

Private Henry Smith (7th Batt) - 7th January 1919 - Baku British Military Cemetery.



http://members.tripod.com/~Glosters/Russ.html
http://www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/viewtopic.php?t=5965
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BerichtGeplaatst: 05 Sep 2006 19:14    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Het fotomateriaal op deze site is inmiddels flink uitgebreid:

http://polarbears.si.umich.edu/index.pl?node_id=272
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BerichtGeplaatst: 23 Nov 2007 23:51    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

For Veteran's Day - Remembering a Forgotten War

It is the soldiers who fight the wars on the battlefields and the politicians who squander their victories in conference rooms and at lavish banquets. The military and political history of the United States for over two centuries is a history of wars that had to be refought and victories that turned into truces and retreats when politicians had the chance to work their magic on them.

The failure by politicians to finish the War in Iraq during the Gulf War led to it being refought now. The failure to settle the basic questions in Europe after WW1 led to WW2. The failure to make the Allied Intervention in Russia count and force back the Bolsheviks led to the Cold War.

For Veteran's Day it is appropriate to remember that forgotten war, for the soldiers who died there and the cause that was lost and the lessons it holds for us.

In 1918, two expeditions of US troops, the American Expeditionary Force Siberia and the Polar Bear Expedition entered Russia and left within a year or two-- leaving several hundred dead behind them as well many more crippled for life. When compared to the conditions that would break the German army decades later fighting much further West-- the relatively light casualties and performance of American troops was nothing short of spectacular. Much like Iraq however, it was not seen that way at the time.

1918 and 1919 were crucial years. They were the years of the closing gate. The last years when the chance to break the Bolshevik hold on Russia was still possible. The last chance to ward off the murders of millions and a global war that might have ended in the nuclear annihilation of mankind.

The 15,000 American forces stationed in Russia did not lack for courage, they did however lack a mission beyond the kind of peacekeeping and reconstruction role US troops found themselves in when stationed in Iraq. President Wilson had determined that the United States was to remain neutral but as in Vietnam and as in Iraq, American forces once again found themselves trapped dealing with the corrupt and bandit ridden 'friendly' government that was the only alternative to the Bolsheviks and the ruthless and murderous Bolshevik forces adept at ambushes, blending in with the civilian population and guerrilla warfare.

Under orders to protect the railways from constant Bolshevik terrorist sabotage and Cossack bandit raids, American troops found themselves forced to fight both sides, the Communists and the Cossack bandits of General Semenoff, at the same time. Like the 'White Mice' in Vietnam or the Iraqi police, the Cossack forces represented the only alternative to the Communist enemy yet were themselves so rotten, corrupt and vicious that they were utterly useless for fighting the enemy and good for nothing except terrorizing civilians and lining their own pockets. The failure to establish a government and a military force worth fighting for, doomed the cause of freedom in Russia, in Vietnam and likely in Iraq as well.

The failure to give American troops a meaningful combat role, left US troops on the defensive, trying to protect civilian infrastructure against all sides in an increasingly chaotic conflict where they could not seize the advantage or act decisively. A description that could suit either the US forces in Iraq or Russia.

In Russia, President Wilson's idealism and determination to end war, squandered an opportunity that might have greatly changed the face of the 20th century. Had the United States committed itself to defeating the Bolshevik forces while bringing an orderly command to Anti-Bolshevik forces, most of whom were little better than thugs and bandits, instead of resisting the French, Japanese and British agenda-- the Soviet Union might have been crushed in the cradle before it ever emerged to threaten the world.

After 9/11, the United States had the chance to lead a genuine war against Islamic terrorism. In Iraq, the United States had the chance to bring Iran-- the world's largest sponsor of terrorism-- to heel. That opportunity has been squandered time and time again by diplomacy and by determinedly keeping US forces in a defensive role where they're free to take casualties but have to worry about court martials and demonization when they actually step over a line in fighting back against their attackers.



President Wilson and President Bush are in many ways fundamentally different men but they both share an idealistic belief in creating a better world. Unfortunately neither of them could understand that we cannot create a better world, only a better nation and when we do that, we contribute to the world as a whole. War is a means for subduing enemies who threaten us before they can become more grievous threats. The failure to subdue the Bolsheviks carried a terrible place and might have carried a more terrible one still. It is unknown what price will be paid for a failure to subdue a nuclear Iran.

Hundreds of men died in the frozen lands of Siberia and are today mostly forgotten. We remember the dead so that the living might remember.

http://www.recycledart.org/node/4951
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BerichtGeplaatst: 04 Jul 2008 10:53    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

339th Infantry Regiment In Northern Russia 1918-1919
http://nl.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzorBLUtvoA
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BerichtGeplaatst: 05 Jul 2008 6:50    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

William Bryan Robbins, Sr.
(1896 – 1972)
A Polar Bear in North Russia

by Miriam Robbins Midkiff

It was a humid night in Western Michigan, and the stars and fireflies twinkled over the yard of my great-grandparents’ home where I stood on a small statue of a polar bear. My 10-year-old cousin scolded, “Don’t stand on that! It’s Grandpa’s!” The “grandpa” mentioned was his grandfather and my great-grandfather, William Bryan Robbins, who had recently passed away. It was 1972, I was five years old, and although it was a time of sorrow for many family members, it was a time of magic for me. Just a few days earlier, I had flown 3,000 miles with my parents from our small Alaskan village, population 300, coming into a breathtaking view of Chicago at night, a scene I would never forget. At our journey’s end, my grandfather met us at the airport in Grand Rapids. We drove 35 miles west to tiny Conklin and pulled into the driveway of my great-grandparents’ home. Grandpa said, “Now there’s Great-grandma. She’s feeling sad today, so give her a great big hug.” I flew out of the car, and running across the yard to where my petite ancestor sat, I surprised her with the biggest embrace my small arms could manage!

Although our time in Michigan created memories that I still look back on with fondness, I unfortunately have none of the man whose funeral was the purpose behind our trip. I had seen him on two previous visits, but was too young to remember the lean, gray-haired man with an affinity for his pipe and the Robbins’ trademark storytelling. Nor did I have any clue of the significance of the statue in his front yard. Born 6 June 1896 in Hesperia, Michigan, William Bryan Robbins was named for the silver-tongued presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan. Also known as “Bill” or “Bryan”, he was the third of seven children of Angelo Merrick Robbins and his wife, Mary May “Lula” Kimball. Because Angelo was a schoolteacher, the Robbinses lived all over Newaygo County, wherever a teaching position became available. It wasn’t until 1906 that the family settled in Ensley Township for ten years. Although Bill never attended a higher institute of learning, he continued to educate himself by helping his father study for his annual teaching certifications.

As Bill became a young man, the political climate in Europe geared up for World War I. There were also changes at home. After Bill’s oldest brother died in 1914, the family moved west to Muskegon Heights, a growing community situated three miles inland from Lake Michigan. Here Angelo ended his teaching career and became employed at a nursery, while Bill found work as a chauffeur in the new age of automobiles. One fall day in 1917, Bill was hired to drive a hearse for a funeral. Among the mourners was a blue-eyed, four-foot-eleven, 15-year-old, Marie Lewis. It must have been love at first sight, because they began a courtship that lasted two years. Bill’s older brother, Lloyd, was already serving in France with the 32nd Division in a machine gun corps. So, joining the patriotic spirit that was sweeping the nation, Bill enlisted on 23 June 1918 to begin an unforgettable year in a forgotten expedition in American history.

Like most wars, the events in Northern Russia in the early twentieth century had multiple complicated causes. At the beginning of World War I, Russia was one of the Allies, but was undergoing internal turmoil between the Czarist monarchy, the Provisional Republicans (a democratic party known as White Russians), and the Bolsheviks. When the communists overthrew the Provisional government that succeeded the monarchy, they signed an armistice with Prussia, switching sides mid-war. The Allies were horrified, realizing the enemy could now relocate troops to the Western Front, gaining a three-to-two advantage. The U.S. could also lose a fortune in munitions and foodstuffs it had stored at Murmansk, North Russia, originally intended to help the Allied cause. Things changed when the Bolsheviks realized that they had the disadvantage in their armistice with Prussia, and appealed to the Allies for assistance. Britain saw the opportunity not only to re-establish the Eastern Front, but also to colonize the area. Immense pressure was put upon President Wilson to supply American troops for the expedition, since most British troops were occupied in Western Europe. Ostensibly, Americans were sent to Russia to defend their munitions from Axis takeover. The truth is, the weapons had long been “requisitioned” by Bolsheviks by the time they set foot on Russian soil; and the next 17 months would be a senseless waste of American lives for a purposeless and futile campaign that rivaled the wars of Southeast Asia half a century later.

Bill Robbins’ basic training took place at Camp Custer, Battle Creek, Michigan. He was assigned to Company I of the newly formed 339th Infantry of the 85th Division, later nicknamed the “Polar Bear Division,” because of its service in the American North Russian Expeditionary Force (ANREF). But Russia was the last thing on these Michiganders' minds that summer of ’18. They believed they would join their brothers in the trenches of Western Europe. Leaving in late July, they made their way by train and ship to the south of England, where they had the bad luck to be stationed at the wrong place at the wrong time. General Pershing felt he could not spare any of his troops from France, so he chose the 339th to be assimilated into British schemes. The Americans were re-outfitted with British uniforms, rations, and supplies, which were of lowest quality. Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton had designed the outer garments of the uniforms. While constructed to keep out the cold, the soldiers’ safety and agility in battle had not been kept in mind. The overcoats were stiff and unwieldy, the boots’ slippery soles as useful as high heels on frozen terrain. The horrid rations consisted of ancient canned corned beef and seven-year-old frozen rabbit. Medicine was limited to iodine, quinine, and laxatives. The injury to insult was the replacement of reliable, U.S.-made rifles with the Russian Moisin-Nagant 7.62mm rifle, whose poor design and inaccuracy caused soldiers to describe it as being able to “shoot around corners.” Additionally, there was no scabbard for the bayonet, so it had to be permanently fixed to the rifle, making it only useful to roast meat over campfires!

The 339th was sent to Newcastle-on-Tyne, where they embarked for an eleven-day voyage. This transport also included the 310th Engineers, the 1st Battalion, the 337th Ambulance Company and the 337th Field Hospital. The medical training of the latter consisted mainly of learning how to roll bandages. Medical supplies had purposefully been left behind in England to make room for crates of whiskey for British officers. Only a handful of first aid equipment was brought along by some American medics. On their route through the North Sea, influenza took hold, due to one of the ships not being disinfected after its last trip on which it had carried many deadly cases of the illness. Several men died enroute and were buried at sea. When the ships arrived at Archangel on September 7th, a large number of soldiers were ill and had to be quarantined in makeshift hospitals. Four weeks later, the flu ran its course with nearly 100 young men dead and buried in a new cemetery in Archangel. Bill also became ill, but refused to seek medical treatment. He knew that in the contagious atmosphere of the infirmaries his chances of survival were slim. He recovered and was sent to the Railroad Front.

Archangel was then a city of 40,000 inhabitants, located where the Dvina River flows into the White Sea. The surrounding 250,000 square miles are nothing but swampland, with only stunted pine forests breaking up the monotonous landscape. A railroad stretched southward to Moscow for some 900 miles. Several companies, including Company I, were stationed at the Railroad Front, an area of about 125 square miles encompassing both sides of a 17-mile stretch of railroad. Encampments were made along the railroad, and these outposts were defended, along with French troops, from the Bolsheviks (“Bolo”). Besides the French, there were also British and Royal Scots, Italian, Canadian, and Serb troops spread across the province. All were placed under British command; lower-ranking British officers were given authority over other high-ranking officers. The Americans got on well with the other troops, except for the Brits. Unfortunately, the British took advantage of the Americans, even confiscating food, supplies, and gifts sent to them. Many soldiers had to pay to receive goods sent by their own families! Additionally, some in the service organizations stationed in Archangel also joined in to profit in this unethical manner. Bill recalled that he purchased a sweater from the YMCA, which had been made and donated by citizens back home. The Americans were paid in worthless British script; Bill ended up giving away his to a peasant when he left Russia.

The American troops received no help from their superior officers in these matters. ANREF commander, Colonel George Stewart, abdicated his authority to the British command and would not interfere to assist his men. To make matters worse, the major in charge of the 339th was a drunken incompetent. He would send his companies after the enemy without proper intelligence or maps. If they failed in their missions, he would blame them. He so infuriated the enlisted men that he was in danger of losing his life. Bill recalled later some of the men shooting at the chimney of the major’s building to scare him into going back from the front. The saving grace in this situation was the lower-ranking American officers, who did all they could to ease the load of those under them, taking part in their privations. These men often risked receiving reprimands from their superior officers as they defended the enlisted men in courts martial, or refused to obey orders that unnecessarily risked their men’s lives.

Above and beyond all obstacles was the climate, worse than the enemy himself. With the winter of 1918-1919 being one of the coldest on record, the thermometer plunged to 60 below zero. Bill once told how the men would sit on frozen, snow-covered logs near the campfires while they warmed themselves. When the spring thaw hit, they discovered that some of the “logs” were actually corpses! With inadequate clothing and lack of food, the troops looked to the peasants’ ways to survive. They discarded the cumbersome boots for fur moccasins, trapped rabbits, shot wild birds and used grenades to blow fish from the frozen rivers to eat. Always they must stay on the lookout for terrorist attacks. Like the wars in Korea and Viet Nam, our troops could never be sure who was enemy and who was friend.

Meanwhile, the families of the ANREF were appealing to their Congressmen. The Armistice, signed on November 11, 1918, had ended World War I, but their sons were still fighting what seemed an endless war. Finally, an Act of Congress brought the Polar Bears home. Beginning June 3, 1919, the first of the troops shipped out of Archangel for Brest, France. On June 21st, they boarded the S.S. Von Steuben for their final voyage home, arriving in Detroit on July 3rd. Orders to form ranks and march down the street were disregarded, as families mobbed the platforms to embrace loved ones. On July 7th, the Force demobilized at Camp Custer and headed home. Bill received his discharge pay of $284.45. He was fortunate that he was never wounded, and although he did not receive any medals, he was issued a Bronze Victory button. One hundred twenty-one American dead were left behind in Russian soil for another ten years, until a search party returned with the remains of eighty-six.

As for Bill, he married sweet little Marie whose letters sustained him during the bitter hardship of the north. They were wed Christmas Day 1919 and became the parents of five children. All three sons served in World War II: two in the Army Air Corps, the other in the Navy. Bill’s years after the war are another story; but when he passed away on 6 August 1972 in Grand Rapids, he was survived by his wife of nearly 53 years, five children, ten grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. As I stood at his grave in Coopersville Cemetery, Ottawa County, Michigan for the first time in October 2000, I marveled at the obstacles this man had overcome thousands of miles away, and I felt proud to be his descendant. Truly, William Bryan Robbins, Sr. is one of my favorite military ancestors!

Sources:

Newaygo County, Michigan Vital Records

Oceana County, Michigan Clerk’s Office

Muskegon County, Michigan Vital Records

1900, 1910, and 1920 U. S. Federal Census Records

Robbins Family Records

Robbins Oral History, as told by Robert Lewis Robbins and Bryan Henry Robbins

Discharge and Enlistment Records of William Bryan Robbins

Quartered in Hell: The Story of American North Russian Expeditionary Force, 1918 –1919 by Dennis Gordon, published by The Doughboy Historical Society and G.O.S., Inc., Missoula, Montana, 1982

“Detroit’s Own” Polar Bears: The American North Russian Expeditionary Forces, 1918 –1919 by Stanley J. Bozich and Jon R. Bozich, published by Polar Bear Publishing Co., Frankenmuth, Michigan, 1985

Other Posts in this Series:
2. The Family of Angelo and Lula Robbins
3. Bryan and Marie - A WWI Romance
4. Bryan Gets Drafted
5. Basic Training at Camp Custer
6. Getting "Over There"
7. Bryan and King George V
8. To Russia, With Influenza
9. A Letter from Mother - 25 Sep 1918
10. A Letter from Father - 7 Oct 1918

Posted by Miriam at 3:07 PM

http://ancestories1.blogspot.com/2007/07/polar-bear-in-north-russia.html
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BerichtGeplaatst: 21 Jul 2008 8:17    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

#

"Stranglers of the Revolution" - a new blog that chronicles the events of 90 years ago, both small and large, that encompassed the Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War.

http://stranglersoftherevolution.blogspot.com/
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BerichtGeplaatst: 21 Jul 2008 8:41    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

"The American Expedition to North Russia in 1918-1919 has been oddly neglected by professional historians, with the result that most US citizens, including even the best educated and well-read, have been unaware of its existence. Partly, this has been because it got underway in the closing weeks of the Great War (now officially called World War I), and like a side show at a circus where they are already striking the tent, it drew little attention.

"Besides that, there was the confusion and obscurity surrounding it with regard to its purpose, especially in Washington and among the American troops who were involved: they literally had no idea what they were being sent to do. Even President Woodrow Wilson, as will be seen, was in a spin of uncertainty as to whether he should or should not authorize the expedition, and the British leadership (for it was to be an Allied operation, including British and French soldiers, but with the British officers in all the top command positions) offered little clarification.

"Without further enlightenment, five thousand American doughboys found themselves, early in September of 1918, after a long, slow trip from England through the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean, disembarking at the Russian port of Archangel - and more than half of them no sooner ashore than they were, with astonishment, packed off to "the front" to fight "the Bolos" - which was to say units of the Soviet Red Army. The operation thus turned out to be, willy-nilly and right from the start, an invasion of Soviet territory."

Ernest M. Halliday - from the Introduction to his book When Hell Froze Over http://pbma.grobbel.org/
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BerichtGeplaatst: 18 Jul 2010 15:08    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Red v White


Typescript report by Capt George A Hill, RAF, entitled 'Report of work done in Russia to end of 1917', 27 Nov 1918. With accompanying correspondence. From the collection of Major General Sir Frederick Cuthbert Poole, General Officer Commanding, North Russia Expeditionary Force, 1918-1919.

http://www.kingscollections.org/servingsoldier/index.php?id=701
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BerichtGeplaatst: 16 Aug 2010 11:06    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Hier nog meer info over deze beren:

http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/p_bears.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_Bear_Expedition
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BerichtGeplaatst: 16 Okt 2014 9:13    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Voor de kwis Raad een Plaatje had ik dit monument gebruikt om te raden.
Zag niet dat dit monument hier nog bij stond.

http://pbma.grobbel.org/polarbearevents.htm
Bijbehorend verhaal.
http://pbma.grobbel.org/index.html

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