|CK at MGM in Detroit|
Last week the AI tour invaded Michigan. We stayed at the MGM in the motor city. We had fun tailgating at the University of Michigan / Penn State game on 10/9 in Ann Arbor. The Michigan Wolverines beat the Nittany Lions 18 to 13.
|Vinnie Driano + Mike Deluca|
Ann Arbor, MI
|CK with Polar Bear Memorial|
|Larry Chase, CK, Mike Grobbel, Steve Stephens|
White Chapel Cemetery, Troy, MI
Wilson had, for one of the few times in our history, granted authority to allow American troops to serve under foreign leadership. In November of 1918, just as the war in Europe was coming to a close, British Major General Edmund Ironside took over command of our force, what became known as the Polar Bear Expedition—great name, but not such a great outcome. In his diary, Ironside expressed doubts about his mission comparing the advance into Russia to sticking your hand into a huge sticky pudding.
Eventually, about five thousand American troops served in Northern Russia alongside British, Canadian, Australian, and White Russian forces. Some of them would not return to America. On the Dvina front on September 16, 1918, Private Philip Sokol from Pittsburgh was the first American to be killed in combat in the Russian campaign.
After initial success, stiffening Bolshevik resistance rapidly put the intervention forces in an increasingly desperate situation. Throughout the bitter Russian winter of 1918, General Ironside had to order his forces to retreat into a smaller and smaller area until ultimately they would be fighting just to survive.
Nevertheless, as in almost all wars, there were occasional brief, happier interludes. Godfrey Anderson was a Michigan farm boy who served in the 337th Field Hospital Unit in the Polar Bear Expedition. He describes a Christmas dinner in Shenkursk that featured fricassee of rabbit and chocolate layer cake. A balalaika orchestra and a dozen or so Russian girls were invited to attend and dance with the troops. On occasions, fraternization could lead to more; Private Joseph Chinzi of the 339th Supply Company married a Russian bride in Archangel.
|Polar Bear Plaque|
White Chapel Cemetery
Wilson feared that the presence of American troops in Russia after World War I had ended could impede settlement of the Versailles Peace Treaty where he sought the creation of the League of Nations. The war to end all wars was finished. The Americans wanted all their boys to come home, and there was a growing feeling in the United States that the Russian intervention was a disaster that had failed to achieve anything very positive. Eventually, we did pull our boys out.
Today, though you can find a polar bear sculpture in a Detroit cemetery, the Allied North Russia Expedition is largely forgotten in the United States. In Russia, a visitor to Archangel will find several memorials of Russian resistance to the expedition."
Source: America Invades, www.amzn.com/1940598427.
Michigan remembers her sons the Polar Bears.
You can purchase a copy of AI and learn more about American Invasions on our web site which has additional photos, videos...
Special thanks to Mike Grobbel, Larry Chase, Steve Stephens and Mike Deluca!