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Page I THE ROMANCE OF COMPANY "A" 339th INFANTRY A. N. R. E. F. BY DOROTHEA YORK With the Co-operation of Sgt. Edward J. McCloskey Sgt. John F. Galloway Sgt. Harold C. Culver Sgt. Thomas J. Rapp Sgt. Thorley E. Sturr Sgt. John S. Crissman Corp. John L. Boren Reg. Sup. Cook Hoy Swadener Bglr. Earl P. Culver Pvt. Alfred Gray Pvt. Evan H. Knox Pvt. Max Ostrow Pvt. Guy Umphrey Ralph Albertson (Y. M. C. A.) Sgt. E. L. Storck -- - -- - -w-ww - I
Page II COPYRIGHT, 1923 By DOROTHEA YORK McINTYRE PRINTING CO. 103 West Atwater St. Detroit, Mich.
Page [unnumbered] cI~play "'A" at,"amnp [P tanezen,
Page III I This book is one of 200 numbered copies for service men of "A" Company, 339th Inf. only, of which this is No...,..... published for...................~...... Author's Aiutograph...
Page IV Brt rat in To our gallant dead and those who mourn them this little book is respectfully dedicated by the men of Company "A".
Page V Guiseppe De A Milton Gottsch Bernard Kenn3 William Lehma SGT. YATES RODGERS CORPORALS Lmicis Albert Moore alk Edward Peyton r Albert Rauschenberger inn August Richey I PRIVATES William Carter Elmer Cole Clarence Cook Joseph Cwenk John Hannon Alfred Hutchinson Stillman Jenks Stanley Kowalski Max Kurowski Charles Kussrath Sebastine Lencioni Stewart McTavish William Martin Ralph Patrick Russell Poth Lindsay Retherford Benjamin Rose Archie Russell Leo Sajnaj Frank Scruggs Dwight Shingledecker George Smith Victor Stier Orville Stocken Harry Surran Earl Sweet Henry Thompson Dausie Trammell Lewis Weaver Walter Welstead Edson Williams iI0-c.-. I ~vc1L _ ( kV otr
Page VI I J
Page VII TABLE OF CONTENTS Page INTRODUCTION.................................................... 11 PART I-PREPARATION CAMP CUSTER.................................................. 17 E N R OUTE........................................................ 19 E NGLAND......................................................... 19 THE "NAGOYA".................................................. 20 BAKARITZA...................................................... 23 PART II-THE SITUATION AIMS OF EXPEDITION............................................... 25 ARCHANGEL PROBLEMS.............................................27 THE FRONT............................................ 31 CHARACTER OF THE COUNTRY...................................... 31 THE ALLIED ARMY................................................. 32 THE ENEMY.............................................. 33 TRANSPORTATION.................................................. 34 SUPPLIES......................................................... 35 HOSPITALS AND MEDICAL CARE.............................. 36 M ORALE...........3.................................... 38 PART III-THE CRACK OF RIFLES THE RIVER VOYAGE............................................. 39 BERESNIK.................................... 41 SHENKURSK....................................................... 43 THE FIRST SKIRMISH................................. 44 ROVDINO......................................................... 46 THE DVINA FRONT........................................ 49 TAKING OF NIJNI PUYA........................................... 50 AGAIN ROVDINO............................................. 51 UST PADENGA-SHENKURSK —SHAGOVARI............................. 53 UST PADENGA AREA............................................... 58 UST PADENGA SHOW.............................................. 60 A NNABEL......................................................... 60 CHRISTMAS.................................................... 63 THE END OF 1918........................ 63 SHENKURSK BARRACKS............................................. 65 PART IV-THE ROLL OF GUNS EARLY JANUARY.................................................. 74 SEVEN DAYS BATTLE FIRST DAY............................. 76 THE SECOND DAY.............................................. 81 THE THIRD DAY............................................... 83 THE FOURTH DAY.............................................. 84 THE FIFTH DAY- OLOSHOSA..................................... 87 THE SIXTH DAY-SPASSKOE Y................... 91 THE SEVENTH DAY-RETREAT FROM SHENKURSK..................100 SHAGOVARI.......................................................105 VISTOVKA-A STAND............................................. 107 KITSA-THE NEW FRONT....................................... 12 A PAUSE IN HOSTILITIES-KITSA AND UST VAGA...................... 112 THE SHOW AT UST VAGA..........................................119
Page VIII PART V-ZERO HOUR FIRST BATTLE OF MAXIMOVSKAYA...................................122 A PAUSE........................................................ 124 SECOND BATTLE OF MAXIMOVSKAYA..................................125 BATTLE OF VISTOVKA............................................. 127 PART VI-THE FINISH K ITSA AND THE REAR............................................. 134 THE SHOW AT BERESNIK...........................................137 MORJEGORSKAYA AREA........................................... 138 THE START...................................................... 143 B REST............................................................144 THE LAST LAP....................................................145 H OME...........................................................145 CITATIONS AND DECORATIONS.................................... 147 R OSTER..........................................................149 POEMS, SONGS, LETTERS, ETC. COMPANY "A" SONG............................................... 18 "WHEN THE LORD WAS DESIGNING CREATION"....................... 24 "THE QUESTION"................................................. 48 COMPANY "A" SONG (Revised Version)............................... 54 "I WANT TO Go HOME" (North Russia Version)....................... 62 DAILY ROUTINE-NORTH RUSSIAN HERO............................ 64 "THE SAMOVAR".................................................. 66 COSSACK MARCHING SONG........................................ 73 LETTER-HONORABLE MENTION OF CAPT. ODJARD..................... 88 LETTER-COMPANY "A" CITED IN BLOCK............................. 88 Co. "A" SHOW-PROGRAMME, PRESS NOTICE.......................... 120 SONG HIT.................................................. 121 COMPANY "A" SONG (Medics Version)................................110 TELEGRAM-WITHDRAWAL OF TROOPS................................136 PERSHING TO A. N. R. E. F......................................... 136 "WHEN YOU'RE WARM, SAFE FROM ARCTIC SNOWSTORM"...............106 MAJ. GEN. IRONSIDE ON Co. "A" AND CAPT. ODJARD.................. 142 CLIPPING ON CAPT. ODJARD........................................ 142 How TO ACT IN AMERICA.......................................... 142
Page IX LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Page I-COMPANY "A" AT CAMP PONTANEZEN. II-DEDICATION PAGE. III-1. BAKRITZA, THE BROOKLYN OF ARCHANGEL; 2. TROITSKI PROSPECT, THE MAIN THOROUGHFARE; 3. AMERICAN HEADQUARTERS; 4. A MONASTERY; 5. A CATHEDRAL; 6. AMERICAN CEMETERY............................................ 31 IV-1. OFFICERS ON STEPS OF HEADQUARTERS BUILNDIG; 2. CAPT. OTTO A. ODJARD; 3. INTERIOR OF A RUSSIAN HOUSE; 4. DEAD BOLSHEVIK........................................... 60 V-CARTOONS; 1. AND JUST THEN SOME ONE ASKED "CURLEY" TO LEAD THE Co. "A" SONG; 2. A RUSSIAN FORD; 3. TROUTNERTAKEN FROM LIFE....................................... 72 VI-1. SLED TRAIN ON FOREST TRAIL; 2. OUR DUGOUTS AT UST PADENGA; 3. WIRE AND BLOCKHOUSE, UST PADENGA; 4. CANADIAN ARTILLERY................................... 76 VII-1. NIJNI GORA; 2. NIJNI GORA-ANOTHER VIEW; 3. HOSPITAL DETACHMENT........................................... 78 VIII-1. HEADQUARTERS BUILDING AT VISORKA GORA; 2. THE FARTHEST OUTPOST; 3. INTERIOR HEADQUARTERS BUILDING............ 82 IX-CARTOON-No SUCH LUCK....................................116 X-1. AN ADVANCED POST; 2. ENTRANCE TO A DUGOUT; 3. ENGINEER MAKING BARB WIRE ENTANGLEMENTS; 4. AMERICAN M. G. OFFICERS; 5. AMERICAN M. G. POST; 6. BLOCKHOUSE CREW..124 XI-1. PEASANT WOMEN WASHING CLOTHES THROUGH THE ICE; 2. A WEDDING PARTY; 3. RUSSIAN SAILORS DRILLING; 4. AMERICAN DOUGHBOYS IN FRONT LINE; 5. ADVANCED M. G. POST; 6. A PARLEY IN No MAN'S LAND..........................134 XII-CARTOON-I THINK OF YOU OFTEN.......................... 140 XIII-RUSSIAN WOMEN ENGAGED IN THEIR USUAL OCCUPATION; 2. AMERICAN BILLETS; 3. A SNAPSHOT TAKEN AT MIDNIGHT; 4. RED CROSS HOSPITAL SHIP "KALYAN" FROZEN IN; 5. JUNE ICE IN THE WHITE SEA; 6. MAJ. J. BROOKS NICHOLS........143 XIV-MAPS; 1. ENTIRE BATTLE AREA; 2. VAGA FRONT...............148 N. B.-All Lt. Costello's photographs are used merely to illustrate general conditions. The U. S. Official photographs are of Co. "A" in particular. The cartoons are reproduced by courtesy of Capt. Odjard, who tore them from the walls of Headquarters Building at Visorka Gora just before the final evacuation of the Ust Padenga Area.
Page X I
Page XI INTRODUCTION WE offer this book, with many misgivings, to the men of Company "A" and their relatives and friends. We have worked over it for more than two years, and it is now very far from completion. The worst that may be said of it is that-that it is unfinished. The best is that as far as it goes and to the best of our knowledge, it is perfectly true. We have written without favoritism and without malice and care has been taken to make it as accurate as possible. There are parts which have been altered repeatedly to correct slight errors such as the position of a certain officer during an engagement, the number of our guns, etc. We have had no wish to add to the amazing nonsense which has been written about this expedition, but on the other hand a great deal of material, many unpleasant details and some amusing stories which will readily occur to the "Polar Bear" as he reads are not in print. A little reflection will tell you why. Aside from the possible entanglements of libel suits concerning things true enough but hard to prove, we have thought it best to let tthe dead past bury its dead. This is not the place for a court of inquiry or even a choice bit of gossip and what possible good could come of exposing these shames or failings of men, great or small, to the public eye? None at all. To you who realize the provocation, the temptation, the extenuating circumstance, perhaps the compelling necessity, remain the knowledge of these deeds now well buried. If this holds true in matters of personal experience surely it would be unwise to attempt to dig into the mass of evidence of indifference, graft, immorality, what you will, among the Archangel military. We make this explanation for it is our fear that the doughboy (for whom principally we have writ
Page XII XII. The Romance of Company "A" ten) may read with increasing disappointment and bitterness and at the end toss aside the volume with a wry little smile and the comment, "More censored stuff." It was our original intention to write verbatim whatever we heard, but as our knowledge has increased our reticence has deepened, for we have learned that it is impossible in this case to tell the whole truth. We have said above that our book is perfectly true as far as it goes. It is-as far as it goes. That is why we have named it, at Lt. Costello's suggestion, "The Romance of Company A." Not that it is fiction, not by any means, but that it is forced to omit so much, neither from favoritism or interest but because once started one must go on, and the task would be impossibly stupendous. In our own defence we may say also that we have been far more frank than many of the "A" men themselves have approved. In any case we are not concerned with the military or political aspect of the campaign. We are writing about a section of a madly conducted, tragically ridiculous little war, as nearly as possible as the buck private remembers it personally today, a series of amazing, incredible days that are scarcely believable, in retrospect. Our only reason for bringing in the Archangel situation at all is to explain partially why conditions were as they were at the front. For the soldier reader this is almost unnecessary, but without some slight explanation the casual reader with a grain of military knowledge would say at once that the position and incidents we outline are, in a military sense, impossible. Our authority for practically everything we have said on this subject is Lieut. Harry J. Costello's book, "Why Did We Go to Russia?" His material is of course used only by his courtesy. If the civilian reader is interested in this aspect of the Russian campaign, let him read the lieutenant's book (not ours) very carefully, weighing every brief statement and drawing inevitable conclusions, let him read largely between the terse lines to swell the little book to say twice its size, then let him close the volume and allow his imagination free reign, to form the maddest, wildest conjec
Page XIII By Dorothea York tures that his mind can conceive. He may by this means approach the chaotic reality which no mere pen can compass. The great bulk of our material has been obtained in various ways but with a few small exceptions all at first hand. The official records of Company "A" have formed the skeleton, these supplemented very largely by accounts taken from the men themselves, either from diaries, of which we had three, by letters, or by personal interviews. The poetry, etc., comes almost without exception from the columns of the American Sentinel, an Archangel sheet corresponding with the Stars and Stripes in France. It is our desire to acknowledge gratefully the assistance that has been given us by various officers in sending in, at our request, much valuable material, and we therefore wish to take this opportunity of thanking them. They are four in number, Capt. Odjard, Lieut. Mead, Lieut. McPhail and Lieut. Warner. On the other hand, we are aware that some of these same officers and possibly other officers now so widely scattered, would distinctly disapprove of the book's tone in general and some statements in it in particular. On this account we must say frankly that this general impression was not gained from the officers but from the men, and the book is consequeqntly without any officer's sanction or approval, but entirely on the responsibility of the rank and file. We say this, realizing that the officers' attitude is a reasonable one, in accordance with his own dignity and the army etiquette to which he has been carefully schooled. Obviously we could not ship our manuscript to each officer for his opinion and so feel it best to relieve them of all responsibility by this disclaimer-at the same time thanking them for their co-operation in furnishing military facts which could scarcely have been obtained in any other way. It would be absurd to conclude our acknowledgments without mentioning the man who has for the past year been the mainspring of the late company's activity in connection with the book. Private Knox has done by far the greatest part of the work, in these past months, of organization, not to mention his unfailing promptness in answering the numberless ques
Page XIV XIV. The Romance of Company "A " tions that continually cropped up in the course of construction. That the book in a sense is unfair is quite true as very naturally it records much more concerning the men that could be found and interviewed than about others equally deserving and interesting but inaccessible now. This will account for a seeming partiality which we regret. The account of the Battle of Nijni Gora is unsatisfactiry but although we waited until the last moment, it was impossible to obtain all the information we required. So few men survived the battle that we have been unable to reach and obtain the story from more than one man, Lieut. Mead. Capt. Odjard added some detail to this. If Sgt. Kernan or some others could have been interviewed, we should have had the advantage of additional material and other view points, but unfortunately this was impossible owing to distance. Our shell shock lists are not complete and we are very sorry. We feel too that in simple justice our casualty list should be supplemented by a list of sick and exhausted. It is not usual or in this case possible, but one may be quite as heroic in enduring these ills for one's country as in putting up with a flesh wound, which has its careful record and brings its cherished wound stripe. These few paragraphs which I now open, the author of this little book reserves for herself. It has been my intention throughout to sink the identity of the author as much as possible so that the book might be more essentially the men's book. It is their book. I have only woven their stories together into a continuous whole, filling gaps, omitting when necessary, supplying what they.implied but would not say, incorporating their very terms of expression sometimes or a word or phrase without quotation marks, and telling the greater part of it from their view point. As I have implied above, unlike all other histories I ever read, this is not written as the officer sees it. Interesting and necessary as the officers' outlook is, I think that this story has a quality of its own on that account. The officers helped generously but the true makers of the book were
Page XV By Dorothea York XV. the makers of the history it tells, sergeants or of lesser rank, and from them I took my bias-and prejudice perhaps. To Sgt. Galloway is owing the start of the history and whatever the author may have accomplished in the writing of it. Without his interest, untiring help and encouragement, cut off only by his death, it would never have been written by the present writer-possibly never done at all. It is impossible to say how keenly I have enjoyed it all or how I wish it might be a finished thing, of say five years' work, and not what it is-the jottings from my note book. It has been a wonderful chance to try ever so lamely to draw a thumb nail sketch of this wild, picturesque, unique, dramatic, tragic campaign; of these boys set down as strangers in a strange land, "the country God forgot," frightened but fearless, as lonely as it is possible to be but not whining about it, suffering gamely under the sickening, enraging neglect of headquarters, hating the job and not understanding it, but proud of it on the whole, and determined to stick it to the last, weakened by every hardship and sorrow but remembering in the main to be sanely American when civilization lay seven thousand miles away-Oh, it was a man's size job, and they were men who did it. DOROTHEA YORK.
Page 16 I
Page 17 THE ROMANCE OF COMPANY "A" PART I.-PREPARATION CAMP CUSTER. Company "A" of the 339th Infantry was organized as a part of the 85th Division in September, 1917, at Camp Custer, Michigan. Capt. John H. Potter was the first commanding officer, but his appointment as major taking him away early in the life of the company, it was Capt. Otto A. Odjard who succeeded him that was identified with the company and its interests in the minds of the men. "A" was further officered by First Lts. Carl A. McNabb, Edward J. Saari and Harry H. Mead, and Second Lts. Charles E. Warner and Hugh D. McPhail. The assistance of the non-commissioned officers, four from the Regular Army (Sgts. Thomas B. Kernan, J. O. Benge, John Komisarek and Omar R. Yarger), and the others trained at Custer cannot be over-estimated. Capt. Odjard won the respect and confidence of his men at once, and with the assistance of these officers, built up an organization second to none in the regiment-and the 339th is justly proud of a glorious record. Camp life at Custer was much like that at other camps and but one incident of special interest occurred during the Winter of training. In February, 1918, a picked platoon from Company "A" won the regimental and brigade honors in all-around drill and came second in divisional competition. This platoon was drilled by Lt. Mead and handled by Lt. Sheridan in the competition. Twice the company was ready for overseas duty
Page 18 18 The Romance of Company "A" COMPANY "A" SONG. We are the boys of Company "A" You've heard so much about. The people stop and stare at us, Whenever we go out. We're noted for our winsome ways, And clever things we do, We're out to get the Kaiser, And we're going to get him, tool Chorus. While we go marching, And the band begins to p-l-a-y, You'll hear them shouting, The boys of Company "A" are on their way We're from the Auto City, And we surely miss it, too. The people stop and stare at us, Whenever we go through. We'll storm the Union Station, And Woodward we will take, We're out for reputation, Reputation we will make. Chorus. Sgt. Rogers and Sgt. Rapp.
Page 19 By Dorothea Yorke 19 and twice -he greater part of the men were transferred to other divisions and sent to France, leaving "A" to be filled again to war strength. These first men came from Detroit and Michigan, but subsequent changes introduced men from three other states; so that when finally, with the rest of the 85th, "A" entrained Sunday, July 14, 1918, and started for the coast, not only Michigan, but Wisconsin, Illinois and Kentucky were represented. EN ROUTE. They arrived at Camp Mills, L. I., the following day; spent the rest of the week in preparation for the voyage, and, on reaching New York the following Sunday, boarded the waiting transports, which sailed Monday, July 22, 1918. Company "A" was aboard the transport "Plattsburg." Living conditions were no more uncomfortable than is usual on our transports and the voyage proved to be uneventful-except for a two-days' fog during which the ships lost their course and strayed into a mine field, fortunately without disaster. Saturday, August 3, 1918, the 85th Division reached Liverpool, and, disembarking on the 4th, were more than enthusiastically welcomed by the English population. ENGLAND. Here the 339th Infantry, 1st Battalion, 310th of Engineers, 337th Field Hospital, and 337th Ambulance Company were detached from the rest of the division, which went on to France and, with Col. George E. Stewart in command, entrained for Camp Cowshotte and Stoney Castle at Brookwood. The next three weeks which Company "A" spent at Cowshotte passed rather quietly. Leaves were not obtainable, but passes were a possibility-and it was an unenterprising doughboy who did not gain a fair idea of English scenery and perhaps get a flying glimpse of London in that time. A great deal of time was spent in practice with gas masks -a wise precaution but, as it turned out, a useless one in this
Page 20 20 The Romance of Company "A>' particular case, for very little gas was encountered by this expedition and none at all by Company "A". The heavier guns and the greater part of the ordnance of all types had already gone to France with the main body of the 85th. Now the more personal equipment was exchanged for a type used by the Russian army, and (this was a very sore point) the Enfield rifles were replaced by some made in America for the armies of the Czar and stored in England. They were tried out on the rifle range at once and found to be very inferior to the well known Enfield, as they were inaccurate and inclined to jam and break. It was at this time, too, that "A" Company lost an officer who was universally respected by his men. Second Lieutenant Charles E. Warner was assigned to special duty as Supply Officer of the 1st Battalion, where he served faithfully and efficiently to the end of the campaign. He was "an officer and a gentleman", and as such his loss was felt at the time and frequently regretted afterward. No official announcement had been made, but rumors concerning the troops' ultimate destination were many and as a rule indicated Russia. And then came the large hint. Sir Ernest Shakleton would give a series of lectures to the troops on how to care for themselves in the Arctic regions. Now it was certain and the disappointment was keen. To have missed the Big Show and be sent instead to an unknown country to fight an unknown enemy for an unknown reason. It came hard and it was with stoical endurance and grim purpose but no great exhilaration that this little detachment entrained at Brookwood for Newcastle-on-Tyne on the 25th of August, 1918.. It was the first lap of a journey that already seemed rather lonely. At Newcastle three transports were waiting and Company "A" was assigned to H. M. S. "Nagoya", on which it sailed on Monday, August 26th. "THE "NAGOYA." The "Nagoya" was not a large vessel, perhaps 450 feet from stem to stern, with four decks in the hold and a well deck fore and aft. Amidships were the officers' cabins, sick bay, and a
Page 21 By Dorothea York 21 small room for observation; these surrounded by a small promenade deck. She had been formerly employed as a Pacific and Oriental trade ship and since that time had not been properly cleaned. The ever-present cootie, rats and a number of other species of vermin repellant to man were present in force. This ship set sail from Newcastle with about 1,600 men on board. The officers occupied the cabins as before-mentioned and non-commissioned officers and privates were billeted in the hold, divided between the four decks. A partition ran down through the center of the hold, dividing each of the four decks, B, C, D and E, into two parts. The quarters for Company "A" were part forward and part aft on the two lowest decks, D and E. Around the walls of each of these eight compartments were a row of small tables fastened to the wall at one end and projecting into the room. In the ceiling, hooks held the hammocks, which were hung in rows about four feet apart, so close that when each was occupied the width of bodies held them out until men lay so near they almost touched. The rolling of the ship set all the hammocks swinging together, for there was no width for one to swing alone. The air was fetid with packed humanity and there was no pretense of any system of ventilation. What air there was found its way in from the two hatchways placed fore and aft. If one chanced to be placed on B or C decks, this was very little. Farther down on D and E it was less, but it was here that the men ate and slept and passed the hours between. The stench from the hatchways was unmistakable warning against venturing below and yet one must go below for food and sleep. An unprotected deck in the Arctic Ocean where a cold rain fell steadily gave almost equal warning of pneumonia, and the tiny enclosed deck was but an uncertain refuge for so many. Most of the men were seasick at one time or another (it would have required an iron constitution indeed not to be affected under these conditions) and it added to the general misery of the whole. The food was brought down in steaming kettles from the two galleys and was (we quote a cautious segeant) "probably
Page 22 22 MLhe Romance of Company "A" good to start with." For this state of affairs we do not wish to blame Mess Sergeant Culver, who, torn from his perfectly appointed, perfectly run, kitchens at Custer, with their personnel of professional chefs, lesser cooks and kitchen police which he had managed with glittering success for months on end, was now presented with a few unpromising East Indian cooks who presided over dirty little galleys. These galleys differed probably from the living quarters in that they ran more (we think the verb well chosen) to cockroaches whereas the large main cabins would have a preponderance of cooties. Add to this that everyone was more or less sick and a great many decidedly so and this swarm of packed humanity must be fed thrice daily in overcrowded quarters. No, we have no blame for Culver, who ate and suffered with the rest. The chief employments (aside from the accomplishment of eating three meals a day and washing the resulting dishes-a feat which we have been creditably informed took some six hours of one's day) were sleeping as much as possible; taking a little exercise on deck; inspection; reading (if luck were with you and you had the chance); or watching a poker game going on at one of the tables from the vantage point of your hammock and perhaps taking a hand yourself. Ten days of this and meanwhile outside the chill rain fell dully and almost continuously on the decks of the old Indiaman as she ploughed her way steadily north into the Arctic and the unknown. The "Nagoya" was but a few days out when influenza developed and swept swiftly and relentlessly through the ship. The medical men fought it from the first and no patient lacked attention but proper care was not possible for the sick, nor proper protection against the disease for those not yet infected. When almost every available inch was already in use, segregaticn was a difficult task and proper sanitary conditions an impossibility. Sick bay was filled at once and the observation room soon had its quota. A section of the hold held the remainder. From thirty to fifty men from a company were sick at the same time and, when September 5th the transports docked at Bakaritza (our base of supply and the port for Arch
Page 23 By Dorothea York 23 angel), over two hundred men had succumbed to the pestilence and were taken to improvised hospitals suffering from the conditions of that plague-ridden ship, H. M. Transport "Nagoya" and from similar conditions in the other two ships. BAKARITZA. In a few days the tragic news came in to the rest of the detachment that the first soldiers of the little expedition had given their lives for a country so many weary miles behind them. In fifteen days the dead numbered sixty-nine, of which Company "A" lost but three, Dwight Shingledecker, Henry Thompson and Louis Weaver, who were buried here at Archangel on the shores of the Arctic. Upon landing the troops were divided immediately and sent out to the different fronts without a chance to recuperate from the voyage. The Second Battalion only remained at Archangel under Maj. J. Brooks Nichols. On Friday, September 6th, the first platoon from Company "A" under Lt. Saari left Bakaritza,. embarked on a barge, and, in company with a detachment of Russian Artillery of the Slavo-British Legion, proceeded south up the River Dvina. The next day the remainder of Company "A", Companies "B", "C" and "D" of the First Battalion, Medical Corps, and detachments from 339th Field Hospital and Ambulance Company, all under Major (later Lt.-Col.) Corbley, boarded two barges and followed this advance guard into the wilderness of the interior.
Page 24 24 The Romance of Company "A" 24 The Romance of Company "A" When the Lord was designing Creation, And laying out Ocean and Land, With never an hour's relaxation Nor a moment to steady His hand. As anyone will in a hurry, He let things slip by now and then, That in the excitement and worry He should have done over again. So rather than gum up the outfit, He saved every blunder and blot, And laid it aside in the ocean, To use at the end of the plot. And the sixth afternoon of His contract, (His bonus expiring that day); He baled out the dregs of Creation, And shoved all the latter away. He scraped all the wreckage and tailings, And the leavings and scum of the dump, And he made on the shores of the Arctic A great International Dump. He rushed the things through in a hurry, And, because of the rush He was in, He dubbed the locality RussiaAnd Russia it always has been. And then, feeling blue and sarcastic, Because it was Saturday night, He picked out to call the worst corner of all With the name of Archangel for spitel -Author Unknown,Reprinted by courtesy of Lieut. Harry Costello.)
Page 25 By Dorothea York 25 By Dorothea York 25 PART II.-THE SITUATION. Before going further it seems best to outline as briefly as possible the situation, political and military, into which this little handful of Americans were thrown. AIMS OF EXPEDITION. The English who had been chosen by the Allied War Council to command the Allied Forces in Russia and who of all the Allied Nations seemed most interested in the North Russia venture gave us four reasons for the Russian expedition. (1) To guard supplies and munitions at Archangel (which the Allies had sent to the armies of the Czar) so that they might not fall into the hands of the Bolshevists and Germans. (2) To prevent the Germans from making Murmansk a submarine base. (3) To meet the Czecho-Slovaks who were pushing back the Bolos from the south and east and thus form a new Eastern Front against Germany, the Russian collapse having left this front an open door which had yet to be blocked. (4) To reorganize the Russian Army to fight with us against Germany. It may as well be said at once that when our troops landed the greater part of the supplies had already been taken away by the Bolsheviki so there was very little left to guard. Also that the Germans never made a submarine base of Murmansk, so perhaps this aim was carried out. As for the Czecho-Slovaks, the force sent to Russia was so small that an offensive on a large scale was impossible, and our troops never were nearer them than four hundred miles. The fourth point before us requires more discussion. If it had been possible to reorganize the Russian Army under
Page 26 26 The Romance of Company "A" British officers as England seemed to think she could, we might perhaps have swept across Russia, re-formed the old Russian front, and attacked Germany from the East, making the whole campaign a clever piece of strategy instead of (as it was) a pitiful tragedy. The Allied Army in its entirety was of course but a small handful in contrast to the Red Army, for each nation could spare but few men from the Western Front. We were to understand that our little force was not intended to invade Russia to conquer her own foes, but that it should be a leaven to the great lump of Russia's sane majority. This theory of reorganization, however, was early proved to be quite without foundation, apparently another mistaken appraisal of Russian psychology and politics for the "Great Lump" refused passively but most effectually to be leavened by outside interference. The Russian peasant mind loathes to rise and fight under any circumstances and it was now thoroughly weary of war. And the English weren't tactful about it. They despised the average Russian and took no pains to conceal it. They ordered him about and enforced their commands often by military power. It was a type of slavery to the Russian and he resented it bitterly. We can hardly blame the Russian for not enjoying such highhanded methods and yet the Briton had his side too. He'd come thousands of miles to save the Russian people and, damn 'em, they'd got to be saved whether they liked it or not I And when it became clear that the 800 English officers with their multitudinous body servants had no new Russian Army to command and therefore nothing whatever to do, and that anyway the war was over and done, our few troops stood alone against an ever increasing Bolshevik army; the Winter had swept down upon them, the harbor was frozen, and retreat was impossible until the Spring. At home officials were concerned with the German Armistice and the repatriation of troops in France and the 339th was forgotten. Under these circumstances the wisdom of attempting to hold far-flung outposts 200 miles or more from Archangell is distinctly questionable. Here was a great avoidable blunder. It has been said that it was a military necessity for the protection of Archangel,
Page 27 By Dorothea York 27 that it was for the purpose of reaching Czecho-Slovakia, that the advance on the rivers was to open up the country so that food could be brought into Archangel. To all of which we say "Perhaps." ARCHANGEL PROBLEMS. Archangel itself was a very sober city when it welcomed the Anglo-American force, for Archangel was facing famine and dissolution. After their late encounter with the Bolos, which will be mentioned later, the town was bare of valuables. Already food was poor and scarce and there was little hope of replenishment from the country districts about them, for the city was cut off by the Bolshevist Army and the consequent paralysis of all transportation facilities. The long Arctic Winter was upon them and would find them with little protection against its rigor. With the arrival of the transports, however, the city took on an unnatural gayety. Teas, luncheons, dinners, dances, followed each other in quick succession. These were not for men fromn the lines but for troops permanently stationed at Archangel. The eight hundred English officers who had nothing to do and all winter to do it in, proceeded to enjoy themselves, as did the two thousand batmen who attended them, and what Russian people could afford it. It is not inconsistent with some types of men if they came to know and care little of what occurred at the front, so they drew their rations and were undisturbed. If the English troops, too, found some relaxation, to them in the main one can hardly grudge it, for they were for the most part veterans of the Western Front, war torn and exhausted, who had done their bit and could do no more.. Many of them bore several wound stripes, and they even say there was one sergeant up there who had a wooden leg. In England, the space on board the transport, which might have held medical supplies, sorely needed at the front, had been stocked with whiskey cases in literal thousands and these added naturally to the "Gayety of Nations." During the long winter
Page 28 28 -Th e Romance of C7ompany "A" bottles lay in stacks outside the English Officers' Clubs in Archangel and within club members attended to thd emptying of such bottles. It soon became perfectly obvious that our supplies were tampered with on a large scale. Cigarettes at the front were often lacking and when the ration was forthcoming it was made up of the most inferior English brands, but many a man noted that American cigarettes were smoked prodigally by English non-combatants and soldiers and by Russian civilians. Some men suddenly grew very wealthy. We have one American in mind who, since his return from a winter at the Arctic port, runs a huge touring car and himself looks the picture of prosperity. Crowning insult of all was that the barrack bags which hold the personal possessions of each man came down to the front rifled of their more precious articles-in all cases lacking cigarettes and soap. It's petty little tyrannies like these that make men hate heartily. Yes, Archangel was very gay and many were the wine parties and little suppers attended by English officers exquisitely turned out and groomed. There was nothing to do and very little to restrain them. Perhaps they had scant interest in a war that certain poor chaps were waging yonder in the South. American Headquarters became more or less indifferent and rather cool to those who, from that unpleasant place, the Front, ruffled the current of Archangel society by arriving to report or seek adjustment of some claims. Men from the stinging cold, dirt and privation of the Front looked with increasing bitterness upon the "ration eaters" of Archangel. And at the Front itself strange stories went from lip to lip. They wondered audibly who had stolen their cigarettes; they laughed at a colonel who could not distinguish a water cooled machine gun from an air cooled type; they joked as they built a dugout, saying this was placed here for the protection of Officer So-and-so, so notoriously yellow that we heard a sergeant say tolerantly "He couldn't help it"; they repeated with wry lips little private scandals that would not do for ladies' ears; they told in blazing anger a little tale, that traveled in army gossip, of someone who had read on indifferently while
Page 29 By Dorothea York 29 they had buried a poor chap just outside the door; but how they took the news' that traveled back swiftly to the Front which concerned the horrible forced march of their seventyfive mile retreat, weather 60 degrees below zero, men weary unto death, carrying their wounded with them on the sleighs, the enemy trailing like bloodhounds at their heels, and which Costello in his almost telegraphic brevity records thus, we can only conjecture: "Lieut. Mead described to Colonel Stewart the evacuation of Shenkursk, when the Americans by flatly overruling the British commander, took with them all the wounded instead of abandoning them to the atrocious Bolsheviki. This evacuation T described in a former chapter. Colonel Stewart laughed at this recital by Lieut. Mead, and observed, "It must have been funny to see those people getting out of Shenkursk." We have nothing to add. And yet in the absence of any strong military or civil authority, if the whole military population became a trifle mad and had a touch of "Northern Horrors," was it so very extraordinary? Drop a foreign garrison into any country and the results are never absolutely beneficial either to the country or to the garrison. It requires co-operation, wisdom and a firm hand. Probably it was never accomplished in the history of the world so successfully as when Pershing's troops were poured into France. In Russia we were not so fortunate. It became not in reality a campaign, though there was danger and hardship enough for half a dozen of them. It was a chaotic mass of confusion, conflicting opinions and desires, misunderstandings, prejudice and bitterness. At Archangel so little to do that it brought great evils, at the Front such an imperative necessity for action that it brought its own great evils. It is an error to infer that engagements and troop movements occurred according to a great fixed plan. Far-flung outposts widely scattered were forced to act without co-ordination. Each subordinate officer became in his way a general. Sergeants in a crisis advised with the authority of colonels and even a, private who had shown his metal was likely to argue with his officer and speak to be heard.
Page 30 30 The Romance of Company "A" Each tiny group was so completely marooned at times that its officer stood to his men as a Moses in the wilderness. They looked to him for everything, be he only a second lieutenant. If supplies failed to come by legal methods, if suicidal orders came from somewhere, was he to let them starve, or lead them out to certain death? Who shall judge? If in this primeval wilderness he used primitive methods, if he broke every rule of war and most of civilization, who will cast the first stone? Not any of his men who have returned. This is one great reason why it is impossible to tell all that occurred. We have a subordinate officer in mind who acted towards his superiors in a way that would have been disgraceful in France and would have led to summary discipline. In Russia his men worshipped him, for his acts were necessary and entirely for their sakes. Often there was neither time nor opportunity to explain. If an officer was by nature less aggressive, less resourceful, less self-sacrificing, the men's sufferings were of course greater. We do not attempt to place the blame for any of these conditions that we have outlined upon any nation or individual. We do not know exactly where the guilt lay. We simply state them as bald facts, for whatever their cause the results were the same for the front line. Certainly our few paragraphs are not anti-English propaganda. Our own selection of leaders and general management was not so brilliant that we can afford to throw stones at the choice of other nations. It will be noticed that in the statements above we have been careful to say "English". We have purposely refrained from saying "British". The Canadians, to whom be all praise, were with us constantly at the Front, and were as one with us. They suffered equally with us and often died beside us. And we do not wish to be construed as attacking officers generally, either American or British, far from that. There were some of both nations to whose gallantry, strategy and efficiency we owe the lives of all the 339th who have returned to us. Of General Ironside (British commanding officer) for example, we hear nothing but praise. It could be wished that there had been many more like him. Major J. Brooks Nichols and Major Donahue among the Americans were very generally respected,
Page [unnumbered] 1. Bakritza, the Brooklyn of Archangel. 4. Monastery in Archangel. I I 2. Troitski Prospect, the Main Thoroughfare. 5. A Cathedral in Archangel. 3. American Headquarters. 6. American Cemetery at Archangel.
Page 31 By Dorothea York 31 as were other officers of lesser rank, including our own Capt. Odjard. Another element unfortunately seemed to predominate, that was all. THE FRONT. Before our troops had arrived Archangel had been quite thoroughly looted by the BEolsheviki who had finally been driven out of the city by the inhabitants. A few American Sailors from the cruiser "Olympia", with Ensign:Hicks in command, had landed on the Murman coast on the 15th of July, 1918, and this little body of men had pursued the fleeing Bolo, far into the interior, fighting for about a month without relief and actually establishing two fronts, the Dvina and the Railway fronts. Four other fronts were now established, making six in all -the Pinega, Dvinfa, Vaga, Railroad, Onega and Kadish. Of these, four could be reached by water as they were placed on rivers. The effect of the whole was a horseshoe or half circle about the city. The circumference would be about 500 miles and the radius from 120 to 300 miles. CHARACTER OF THE COUNTRY. The character of the country was distinctly wild, with wide stretches of forest intersected by a mass of rivers, large and small, with numberless tributaries, and here and there a marsh spread out dotted with tussocks which yielded treacherously to the feet and plunged the unwary into half frozen water to the arm pits. Game was plentiful in the form of rabbit, wild turkey, partridge, pigeon, etc., but hunting was forbidden to conserve ammunition. There were fish in the streams and furbearing animals in quantity went, their way through the woods almost entirely undisturbed by men. The silence was well nigh unbroken, the pines cracked in the intense cold and occasionallyr a wolf howled from their depths, otherwise all was stillness except in the villages. These were few in number, scattered along the rivers, and
Page 32 32 The Romance of Company "A" inhabited by a few peasants whose men in peace times trapped or farmed a little but now seemed to do a great deal of nothing. The women worked constantly and did everything that was done. Always bear in mind that these "villages" which may have an imposing title, may be any size from a seven-house affair (like Nijni Gora) to what we should call a fair-sized town. There were not many of the latter type. It is no wonder that after the battle of Ust Padenga, Gen. March reported that the names of the towns mentioned were so small that "I am unable to find them on the largest maps." The climate, though intensely hot and humid in summer, is extremely cold in winter. In October it is already cold, by November it is colder, and from then on the thermometer travels down as low as 60 degrees below zero and occasionally the mercury gives it up and refuses to register. Twenty to thirty below is not unusual weather at all. The rivers, even the largest of them, freeze solidly and the winter trails frequently lead across them. Over the whole landscape the snow is piled in drifts, the pines rise above that, and over all is the leaden sky or brilliant stars and deep rose of the Northern Lights. THE ALLIED ARMY. The power of our Allies upon which we at home built so much hope during the winter of 1918-19 was far less than was fondly hoped and believed. A number of nations were represented: England, France, Canada, Russia and Poland besides the United States-but each nation, like ourselves, had sent only a handful of men and all the Allies, including the United States, never had more than 10,000 fighting men in Russia. Costello places the number at 1,000 less. The discrepancy is probably due to the 800 or more English officers and men unfit for duty who remained at Archangel during the winter and took no part in the fighting. Our own troops numbered 5,500 men at the outset. If the liaison, always a difficult matter, could have been kept up, the force of such an army would perhaps have made itself felt; but the fact was that except between
Page 33 By Dorothea York 33 the French, Canadians and Americans there was practically no co-operation. The reasons for this are several. The main difficulty seems to have been the difference of language which in managing such small forces was disastrous. Even a Briton's speech over a field telephone is not understandable at first blush to the average American. When conversing with Frenchmen, Poles and Russians, the confusion may be imagined. Misunderstanding about a barrage, for example leads to serious situations and more estrangement. This most unfortunately occurred several times. There was besides a general distrust of each other's motives for interference in Russia so that each nation eyed the other askance and watchful waiting was the attitude on all sides. In the main the White Guard (Russians opposed to the Red Guard or Bolsheviks) were not to be trusted for they changed sides continually in an effort to get food. On one ocasion a Russian leak was responsible for the complete failure of an allied offensive. The English on the other hand had affronted the Russians by the mad act of a young English lieutenant-colonel who kidnapped the Archangel provisional government which was anti-Bolshevik in nature and held these officers prisoner until the American ambassador interfered. The Americans moreover had suspicions that the French and English were using our men to guard their trade interests and, for other reasons already described, were so totally out of sympathy with the English as to amount to positive hatred at times on both sides. These few facts will give an idea of the misunderstandings and dissension in the allied army, and under these circumstances it is not difficuult to see why allied co-operation in Russia was for practical purposes non-existent and only a bitter travesty. THE ENEMY. The general opinion concerning the enemy seems to be that on the whole he was a fair to middling fighter. He always attacked with numbers far in excess of ours; fought with little perseverance or principle; was inclined to be discouraged by
Page 34 84 The Romance of Company "A" strong resistance; and, during the first months of the campaign, his troops were readily scattered by a heavy fire. Later he showed a much better front and came to meet a machine gun barrage with apparent steadiness and courage. It was believed by some that this was due to machine guns in their rear operated by their own officers, and it seems quite probable. On the other hand, the character of the enemy presented difficulties to our forces which must on no account be underestimated. Always strong in numbers, his strength grew with the months so that in May, 1919, when our troops withdrew, he was in much better trim than he had been at the first major engagement at Ust Padenga in January, 1919. His artillery was far superior, his knowledge of the country better of course, and (this is perhaps his most dangerous quality) he was so elusive. Aside from the roving bands of the so-called army which might turn up anywhere at any time, every peasant on the road might be a sentry or a spy. As one chap put it, "You can't tell by the look of a Russian if he's a Bolo." Their treatment of prisoners varied widely with the character of the captors. In the main, capture was death, but there were cases of prisoners who were well treated and who in time were allowed to return to our lines. The inhabitants of the villages could not be counted upon as absolutely hostile or quite friendly and their treatment of our troops was very different in different places. Some were quite frankly hospitably inclined and the samovar steamed frequently for a welcome guest in khaki, while others of course yielded only to the persuasion of a shining bayonet with the watchful eye of a grim-faced young American behind it. TRANSPORTATION. The transportation of all kinds of supplies to the various fronts presented great difficulties, the Vaga front where Company "A" was stationed being the longest and most difficult The roads were of the crudest, often a mere "Winter Trail" that wound through the forest coming out of the cover of the pines to cross an occasional frozen stream and disappearing
Page 35 By Dorothea York 35 again among the snow-laden evergreens. In the Fall, besides transportation by boat, carts were used but the mud was deep and the first fall of snow brooght the sled train into use as the swiftest means. As soon as the rivers froze all transportation except on the Railroad front was by sleigh, and food, clothing, ammunition, mail, in fact everything that the troops had, was brought in by the hardy little Russian ponies strung out on the forest trail in a long line. And back from the front came the hospital sleighs carrying the wounded and dead. It was not a pleasant journey for a wounded man but better than the carts which mercifully had been little used. Being springless, they were moving horrors to men with stiffening wounds. SUPPLIES. The supplies brought up in this way consisted of the usual commissary, quartermaster stores and ordnance. The English ration list and Arctic clothing may be mentioned later. The ordnance was quite inadequate. As has been stated before, the heavy guns of the division were shipped to France and the Russian force had little to take their place. On the Vaga front all artillery supporting Company "A" consisted of the famous eighteen-pounders (approximately a three-inchb gun) manned by Canadians all of whom were veterans of Vimy Ridge and the Somme and to whom the greatest praise is due. Compare with these the enemy's big six-inch guns which played havoc with impunity with any position it seemed worth while to attack. Many a town in this campaign was reluctantly evacuated solely because our artillery was so hopelessly outranged. Machine guns were of the best accepted types and of three makes, Lewis, Vickers and (by January 19, 1919) Colts too. The use of the Vickers was another of the hundreds of blunders which characterized the expedition inasmuch as it is water and not air-cooled. Although it is perfectly satisfactory in a temperate climate, in the extreme cold of North Russia the water promptly froze-as might have been expected. There were no trench mortars and one hundred and fifty hand grenades in all were issued to Company "A" during the entire campaign. The
Page 36 36 The Romance of Company "A" defects of the rifles used have already been described. Pistols were of a good English make (Webleys) but the whole company boasted but fourteen. As for airplanes there were none owned by the United States. The English had twenty at Bereznik but they depended upon Russian aviators whose activity was nil. Luckily, the enemy's 'planes were about as effective. It is unnecessary to go into all the supplies required by an army-even a small force like this-but a few more facts along these lines may be interesting. Gas masks were carried until January when they had to be abandoned during the retreat from Shenkursk. Their loss was immaterial as no gas was ever detected on the River Front. Once or twice the officers believed gas shells had been sent over but if so the snow absorbed the gas so effectually that they were quite harmless. As for blankets, four were issued to each man and one more added in December. Snow shoes and skis were part of the military equipment and a knowledge of their use was required for winter travel. Skates were used also to some extent though largely for amusement. Candles were employed for lighting and were so scarce that a short end of one was too valuable a possession to hope to keep. With only five hours' daylight through December and January, this was exasperating to say the least. The valuable cigarette may close the list. These were of British make and an inferior grade. Fifty per man per week was the issue and it served both as smokes and cash. Russian paper money was decreasing in value and had become well nigh useless. The peasants clung to what coins they had so the best money was a cigarette and enough of them would buy anything. HOSPITALS AND MEDICAL CARE. The hospitals in Russia, American and British, were probably on a par with army hospitals in France-nothing much to boast of. The Red Cross hospital being run in both countries by a very different principle was a different proposition and
Page 37 By Dorothea York 37 lucky was the man who found a place in one of them. We had but one Red Cross hospital in Russia at Archangel. The army hospitals-especially those controlled by the British-were inclined to be cold, were short on equipment and too often offered their patients as food only the rations of fighting troops, M. & V., tea, jam and bread, with fish sometimes. The surgeons themselves were fine and did a great work in Russia as in France, but as for nurses-well, we remember seeing a picture once with the explanatory note underneath: "The woman is a Russian nurse attached to the hospital." It would have been truer to have said: "The woman is the one Russian nurse attached to our hospitals." It was Olga, the only trained nurse on the Vaga Front. There were orderlies instead, of course, and some Russian volunteers, but Olga was the only trained feminine nurse. All praise to Olga, but she could hardly be everywhere and orderlies are fine in their place but after all only orderlies. As for what went on at the front it was largely a case of "medicine and duty" unless you got too badly off or were really wounded. The medicines consisted mostly of army staples such as iodine and quinine and the famous No. 9 pills. There was one dentist for "A" Company. When a man was wounded, the fellows near by, or a doctor sometimes, bound up the place, and as soon as possible sent the patient back over the snowy versts to the hospital. If the cold was intense at say fifty below or more it was not the policy to send wounded out but at ten to thirty below the hospital sleighs slipped along the unending miles to the rear. Usually there were stops for food on the way; sometimes not. At best it was a miserable journey and that's the truth. We have made no mention of certain stories of criminal neglect which were known and repeated among the men, for although we have little doubt of their foundation, the cases were isolated and we have neither the proofs nor the exact stories at hand. It may be said that these cases seemed to arise from the general laxness and inefficiency that marked the management of the entire expedition and not from the cruelty or malice of any nation or individual.
Page 38 38 The Romance of Company "A" MORALE. Under this heading we have little to say. The various organizations which were of inestimable comfort to the troops in France seem to have overlooked Russia. The Red Cross sent supplies at odd times but no nurses. The Salvation Army was not represented in any way. Y. M. C. A. and K. of C. men were present in some places but to tell the truth seem in some way not to have accomplished a great deal*-at least at the front in which we are most interested. Occasional "Y" huts were there and quite far into the interior but they lacked supplies for the men's comfort and amusement and charged dearly for what they had. At the far front where "A" spent a good deal of time there was nothing. We have gathered that probably this was not true at other fronts and at any rate have no wish to cast any reflections on fine and worthy organizations; but taking it from the viewpoint of Company "A" men, whatever the reasons or explanations, they lacked almost entirely any help or inspiration from either the Y. M. C. A. or K. of C. Pay came twice in the winter, mail was infrequent and uncertain, and leaves were impossible. Other forces which make or break morale have been discussed already or will appear from the pages that follow-almost all of them on the negative side, but in spite of everything it would be most unfair to say that the morale of the 339th Infantry ever fell very low. It never did. Adverse circumstances hardly made them gay and light hearted but it made them strong, grim and stubborn. And it was in this spirit that they fought, not with quite the brilliant dash of idealistic young troops in France but more like veterans, backed to the wall, bitterly disillusioned, with the coolness and staying power that is born of hard necessity, and the courage that comes of desperation and a losing fight. *A notable exception was "Daddy" Albertson, known and remembered affectionately by all Company "A" men.
Page 39 By Dorothea York 39 By Dorothea York 39 PART III.-THE CRACK OF RIFLES. THE RIVER VOYAGE. But to return. These river barges travel slowly (in fact, we've heard men swear that going down the Dvina they saw the same church for three days) and the voyage offered some small chance for rest between the horrors of the sea voyage and the events that occurred immediately after in swift succession. The scenery was wonderful if one cared to observe it. The barges floated down an avenue of pines that ran up straight and tall on either side where the forests bordered the river. Strange mosses in varied tints covered the peaty earth and the woods were full of wild life. There was one long stretch of perhaps fifty miles in length where the birches and willows now turned to autumn colors, gleamed in pale yellows and the rhus and locusts in flaming crimson stood out against the deep greens of pine and spruce and tamarack. The smoky woodplied engine steamed and snorted along at a snail's pace, scattering cinders on all and sundry and carrying them each hour further into the unknown. Since landing at Archangel we had been under the British command, inasmuch as this expedition was a British venture, and our small force of one regiment had been given over to them for use in much the same way as a similar force was given over to the French by Pershing when our numbers in France were still insignificant. This fact was brought home to us immediately for we were now on British rations such as the British Tommy received, and we didn't like it-first because we were unaccustomed to them, second because they were really inferior to ours owing to great food shortage in England, and third because difficulties of climate and transportation gave scant variety and practicallly nothing in the line of fresh meat, vegetables and fruit.
Page 40 40 The Romance of Company "A" The regular issue included hard tack-this is harder than American hard tack and should be approached cautiously as it can be gnawed but not really bitten; oleomargarine in tins; corned beef, the usual "Bully Beef" or "Canned Willie"; a species of stew, known as slum gullion or "M. & V." (meat and vegetables); bacon; beans; dried peas; dehydrated vegetables; a soup powder of ground peas-not at all bad but for some reason quite generally resented as food; canned milk; tea; coffee, during the last month before withdrawal; and jamusually the well known "Plum and Apple" or an unfortunate combination of citron and rhubarb, occasionally orange marmalade, sometimes black currant (a high favorite but hard to get). The ration of lime juice could hardly be called food but it was given daily to prevent scurvy. There was no sugar to take the edge off its extreme acidity, so as a drink it was not taken for pleasure and in fact the men often balked at taking it at all. The mess sergeant, confronted by this ration list, studied its meager items carefully seeking something that might be converted into invalid fare. The raging plague had not yet quite subsided and there were influenza patients on board. It was a tough problem, but one thing that sounded possible was the dessicated vegetables. It seemed as though a sort of vegetable soup might be produced, but when made it was not a howling success. The vegetables were a mixture of potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc., shredded in long strips and dried, that became famous before the campaign was over. Culver learned later that there was no way known to cooks by which this tasteless mass was rendered edible to hungry troops, not to mention invalids. They scorned it to a man and under the title of "Grass" or "Seaweed" refused absolutely'to consume it under any circumstances. Later still they tried to feed it to the captain's pony which was known simply as "The Black." "The Black" ate it but Culver is now convinced that even the pony would have scorned it in better times. Realizing the grain situation in Russia, she simply yielded gracefully to her lot. But we digress. The gravity of the situation could not fail
Page 41 By Dorothea York 41 to be apparent to all as they floated into the heart of Bolshevist territory, an insignificant force against an unnumbered enemy, uncertainty behind at Archangel, much greater uncertainty ahead and hemmed in by forests on either side that despite their quiet beauty might at any moment produce a hostile army. It must be remembered too that these men had never yet seen action and one hundred of them were raw recruits who had left the United States absolutely untrained. BERESNIK. Five days were spent in this kind of travel and on September 11th, 1918, the first detachment reached Beresnik, where "A" Company was to establish a temporary outpost. The second appeared the following day. Here an open field was chosen for drill work and the recruits just mentioned were for the first time initiated into the mysteries of a drill sergeant's astounding vocabulary. The training was intensive and apparently effective enough as subsequent continuous warfare revealed no deficiencies in the men's fighting qualities. During this period a patrol was sent out into the country to look over telephone wires between Bereznik and Ust Vaga. It consisted of but three men, Cook, Cyr and Blacho, and had no military significance but the peculiar hardship of the journey deserves special mention. They had been sent without rations, were gone three days and covered sixteen versts of forest each way. How it happened we do not pretend to say but orders are orders. And here at Bereznik they buried two more victims of influenza who died after arrival at Bereznik. it was a disheartening thing to leave your graves behind you as you advanced and harder still to die in the loneliness of a strange land. On September 13th a funeral was held for Orville Stocken and on the day following a second for Harry Surran. The two were conducted in exactly the same way with every possible military honor. A description of one suffices for both.
Page 42 42 The Romance of Company "A" The whole ceremony was very simple and primitive but all the more impressive for that. Death in this wild country of swamp and stream and forest was like life, a simple thing with no artificial trappings or pretense. The great trees in all directions offered no solution to the problem of shaping coffins. The only available lumber seemed to be the fences of the village and these they framed into long boxes, very rough but the best that care could do, and in these they laid them. As the pallbearers carried the body from the log house where it lay to a four-wheeled cart which served as hearse the guard presented arms and the little body of perhaps forty men, comprising the guard of honor, firing squad, several officers and an escort, fell in and followed to the grave. The services were held in the open in the little Russian church yard on the outskirts of Bereznik, with the gorgeous autumn woods on one side and the wide blue river on the other. A British chaplain read the burial service. He was probably a Church of England clergyman but whatever his creed it did not seem to matter greatly then. The service concluded, the firing squad fired its three volleys over the grave, and then the slow, solemn notes of "Taps" quivered in the air, and it was over. The true Russia which was always friendly to the American soldier here took these two to her heart to hold until the morning. Just below Bereznik the two streams Vaga and Dvina join and flow northward to Archangel under the name of Dvina. Coming south up the stream as our troops were traveling, at this point one may continue south on the Vaga or take a southeast course on the Dvina. Here the little force split again, part going to the Dvina front but Company "A" in which we are most interested was to form the Vaga front; and so on September 16th half of the company (the third and fourth platoons) under command of Capt. Odjard, with Lts. Mead and McNabb, boarded a Russian river transport and escorted by the Russian gun boat "Tolstoy" started south again up the Vaga. The first and second platoons were left at Bereznik.
Page 43 By Dorothea York 43 SHENKURSK. The next day, September 17th, they reached the city of Shenkursk and there disembarked. Now Shenkursk was to have a very important place in the annals of Company "A" and in fact in the history of the whole expedition, so perhaps it is best to have a little idea of the city. Before the days of the war Shenkursk was a beautiful thriving little Russian town with a population of some three thousand people. It stands on the high banks overlooking the Vaga river and miles and miles of country side. The air is fine and the water excellent. It is chiefly remarkable for its churches as it boasts a cathedral, a monastery with two churches, and three other churches. There are many comfortable houses of the well-to-do and some of the wealthy and in normal times it was used somewhat as a summer resort. It is surrounded by forests where the hunting is excellent. The river provides the city with winter sports and altogether, except for the extreme cold, it is quite a comfortable and pleasant place in which to spend a few days. Our soldiers found it so when, relieved of duty at the front (a thing which occurred usually during a blue moon) they could find a few days' rest in Shenkurskalways provided of course that it wasn't necessary to build fortifications and stand guard during all of their stay in the city. Here, two hundred miles from Archangel, was established our most southerly base of supply in Russia and Headquarters for the First Battalion (which included Company "A" of course). Besides our infantry there were one platoon of American engineers, one section of Canadian artillery, British Headquarters for the Vaga column, and some Russian units. A little later a large military hospital was established which was as well appointed as the conditions would allow, and which cared for hundreds of wounded, American, British and Russian. The city was early fortified by troops who, relieved at thefront, were returned to this base for a "rest". These fortifications took the form of a series of small artificial mounds built up of logs and earth which were placed all around the city.
Page 44 44 The Romance of Company "A" The tiny fortresses were near enough to each other so that the machine gun with which each was equipped could prevent hostile approach not only directly in front but on either side. These were carefully guarded and the dugout under the logs was always occupied by someone who stuffed the stove until the logs about the chimney smoked to suffocation-and often caught fire too-but that's another story. On the whole, though simple enough, it was probably the most elaborate fortification attempted in the entire campaign. Thus the Allied Army decidedly overran the town and were the main objects of interest-especially the Americans, for the average Russian has a soft place in his heart for America but loathes an Englishman with a bitter loathing. The population took this occupation quite calmly on the whole and rather welcomed American troops. The little barishna especially cast soft eyes on these amazing young strangers and evinced great willingness to teach their language and dances to such apt and interesting pupils. The doughboy on his side was not far behind in these interchanges and doubtless added amazing expressions to her English vocabulary. A great many of these Russian girls spoke English but were very shy of attempting it. On September 19th, forty-five men, under Capt. Odjard, with Lt. Meade, left Shenkursk and penetrating further into the forests at the south patrolled in the vicinity of Ust Padenga. They were gone about seventeen hours and covered some eighteen miles of very bad going, through swamp and forest, but returned without encountering any opposition. THE FIRST SKIRMISH. As we enter into the action of these Fall and Winter months of '18 we must say frankly that we cannot be positive of every date. The battalion records were destroyed and practically every diary lost on the night of January 24th, 1919. On this account we must depend on rewritten diaries and the men's memories for lesser dates up to January, when the Company records are available. The casualty lists afford us a few cer
Page 45 By Dorothea York 45 tain landmarks which mark actual engagements. Other records vary by several days in regard to less important events. On September 21st, 1918, about 4:20 in the morning, a detachment of some one hundred men, under Capt. Odjard (with Lt. Meade), started south aboard the gun boat "Tolstoy." They were going into the Russian interior with the express purpose of attacking the Bolshevik for the first time. The plan of attack was quite simple. A body of Russian troops composed of a detachment of so-called "Partisan Troops" (these were armed civilians from one particular town who were opposed to the Bolsheviks) and some thirty men of the SlavoBritish Legion (the body which was the result of England's attempt to reorganize the Russian army) were sweeping south through the Ust Padenga area with the enemy flying before them. The Americans were to run parallel to their land movement by water and, outstripping the fleeing enemy, to land at a given point where there was a boat landing and then by cutting in across his path, to attack the enemy from the other side and so oppose his retreat. Our troops had gone only ten miles below Ust Padenga when the Bolo perceived them from the bank, which at this point runs up into a bluff, and opened fire with rifles. Decidedly the advantage of position was theirs and four of our men were wounded, Sgt. John Komisarek, Elmer Russell, Brammer Muncy and Floyd Stephens. The gunboat answered with its little twelve-pounder supported by machine guns, and after landing the men went straight up over the bank and attacked. Far from anticipating the enemy's approach, the Americans had arrived too late to engage the main body but had met some two hundred men who formed their rear guard. These, despite the fact that they were meeting their first fire, they attacked with all the dash of fresh troops and the determination of veterans, Sgt. Rapp and Corporals Lehman and Gottschalk being especially cool and effective in their handling of machine guns. We joined the White Guard Russians under Capt. Kreetch who were in hot pursuit and together pushed the enemy on
Page 46 46 The Romance of Company "A" south and out of the little town of *Gora above which we had made our forced landing. ROVDINO. We billeted in the school house that night. and the next morning, September 22nd, 1918, took up the pursuit again. We left Gora at 10:40 and had been out only about twenty minutes when we encountered the enemy and exchanged fire. Capt. Odjard, with about thirty men, made a wide detour of perhaps fifteen miles through the swamps and forests with the intention of making a circuit and striking Rovdino (enemy headquarters) from the flank. Lt. Meade took the main body of troops by the road and the two forces were to meet and attack the village. The Bolos gave ground steadily before us and we encountered no determined resistance when we reached our objective. The enemy were in complete rout, and so about five o'clock that night, half famished with the long march in the brisk cold of an Arctic autumn, we took over Rovdino and settled in. We established our outpost and, without attempting to fortify, stayed on patrolling constantly for about ten days. The position there had no tactical value and was in fact pre carious in the extreme, as it lay so far from our base and in the midst of enemy territory. To be frank, there was no particularly good reason for our presence there and we had no voice in choosing the position. But there we were and there we stayed, for orders are orders. We patrolled a great deal to keep the enemy bluffed as to our numbers by popping up here and there and the other place and likewise to keep posted on his numbers and position. Frequently we exchanged fire but Capt. Odjard planned these little raids very carefully and our twelve* NOTE-This village must not be confused with Nijni Gora, which is about 26 versts above. it in the Ust Padenga area and which was later the scene of a much greater battle. "Gora" means in Russian "a hill," and as-many of their towns are built on hills, the name is common enough. All of these little settlements have two or three names and when we occupied one we chose the simplest title to avoid confusion in future, and on this principle we rechristened Gora.
Page 47 By Dorothea Yorke 47 pounder from the gunboat gained us a certain measure of respect so that we never suffered a casualty up here. It was a horribly lonesome outpost though and it is not peculiar that the talk often ran on "When I get back." Capt. Odjard tells the story of one night when the situation looked quite as bad as usual and he feared an attack before dawn. About midnight he started out to make the rounds to be sure that all was as it should be and so came upon two sentries deep in earnest conversation. The Bolo might come and be hanged to him, the night might be cold and dark; they were discussing what they'd order first to eat when they got home. And as the Captain came up unobserved in the darkness Corp. Troutner was stating his decision emphatically. "Combination salad," he was saying, "Wouldn't I like some now. I'll order combination salad." The Captain smiled to himself, spoke to them, and passed on. Tobacco ran so low at this time as to be non-existent in the ranks. The smokers of the detachment (which included practically every one) hunted and tried all the substitutes that offered. Hay was a farce and dried tea leaves little better, but hop leaves, with which the Russians themselves had to be content, was a fair substitute. We are not acquainted with the chemical properties of hop leaves but it apparently has a mild sort of "kick" used in this way. At some time in September a young Russian called Valentine Kamaroff joined the company. He was a slip of a boy of sixteen or so, the most daring and skilful of scouts. No one could help admiring the youngster's dash and "A" Company took him in as a sort of mascot. The story goes that once having penetrated deep into enemy territory, he was discovered and forced to flee on a horse. The enemy close at its heels and the bullets clipping about his head, he turned in the saddle to wave a saucy farewell. It was typical of his daring. He stayed with us for some time and finally was granted a commission and sent into the south. When we heard of him last the gallant little Kamaroff was still fighting Russia's battles against Russia.
Page 48 48 The Romance of Company "A" THE QUESTION. Does the water still flow in the Hudson? Are there any more chocolate creams? Are oranges and peaches within people's reaches? Was the past just as good as it seems? Do people still dine around tables, And order the food that they please? Or when they want taters and juicy tomaters, Do they have to eat crackers and cheese? Are the taxis and street cars still running? Do the fashions change twice every year?. Are dances and dinners still Blue Ribbon winners, On nights that are balmy and clear? And by the way, now that I'm asking, Please, tell me, are you really real,A live human being, I once was a-seeing, Or a dream girl my waking hours steal? A. C. D.
Page 49 By Dorothea York 49 THE DVINA FRONT. Meanwhile the first and second platoons under Lts. Saari and McPhail left Beresnik on Sept. 18th and went south on the Dvina, in a river transport, as far as Chamova. This was a part of the Dvina Front, a front with which Company "A" had little to do afterward but at this time we were down there for a few days. The two fronts were not far apart at this point, the finger of land between the two splitting rivers measuring about eighteen miles across from Chamova to Mallo Beresnik. On September 20th we reached our destination. The mud at this season was deep and clinging and there was a mile of it between the boat and the town but we arrived finally at billets and relieved a detachment of Royal Scots. After two uneventful days here we marched on south toward Selso where there had been a battle the day before. We were to reinforce a detachment of the First Battalion here and reported to Major Corbley at a town just north of Selso whose pronunciation approximates "Yakalovskaya". This movement was by land or rather "by mud" as the roads were very bad and we arrived quite all in from the march. We stayed here for several days, opinions differing as to exact date of leaving, but near the end of September we received orders to go, and marched eight versts* to a barge which took us north again to Beresnik. We stopped here to take charge of a quantity of supplies (no tobacco though) and then went south on the Vaga to Shenkursk, which we reached the afternoon of October first, rejoining a little detachment under Lt.. McNabb, which had been left on outpost duty there. On October 3rd, the third and fourth platoons came in from Rovdino for a so-called "rest" which was made up of guard duty and building fortifications, the nature of which has already been detailed. The first and second, with Lts. Saari and McPhail, relieved them at Rovdino, Capt. Odjard remaining at the Front. * NOTE-A verst is roughly speaking between two-thirds and threequarters of a mile. Our troops adopted the term from their Russian informants as it was simpler than constant translation. IA
Page 50 50 The Romance of Company "A" TAKING OF NIJNI PUYA. About the first of October, Col. Delatorsky had arrived at Rovdino and assumed command of the territory. On the sixth, we were reinforced by a force of about two hundred Russians with one pom pom and one 3.7 gun, and on the night of the seventh Col. Delatorsky announced in an off-hand manner that tomorrow we should attack the town of Nijni Puya. And so accordingly, early on the morning of the eighth, the first and second platoons set out to their first battle. The position of Nijni Puya, as will be seen from the map, is about five versts southeast of Rovdino. It is on the same north-and-south road that follows the river for miles and which runs through Rovdino, but, as the road curves east and the river loops west at this point, Nijni Puya is some distance inland. For the attack, the Russians were placed on the left, the Americans in the center, and the Slavo-British detachment on the right. We drove the enemy before us for several miles through mud and water to the waist sometimes, leaping from tussock to tussock, rifle held high to keep it from the water. In the town we met a show of resistance. We estimated their numbers later as between four hundred and seven hundred men, one hundred and fifty of them Baltic sailors, and they presented a warm reception of rifle and machine gun fire. They were without artillery, however. As we waited for our own guns to get into position, lying flat under the rain of bullets that clipped the bushes above our heads, a little Russki at one side drew our amused attention. He held an ungainly entrenching tool and with this he dug awkwardly as he lay, the long handle twisting above him. In this way he made a shallow hole, and, having thus dug himself in, thrust his head in its protection, and put up the spade-like instrument in front as a shield. In spite of the perilous situation, this ludicrous spectacle could not fail to appeal to an American's sense of humor and everyone in sight of him enjoyed a quiet chuckle. When our guns opened fire atmospheric conditions caused
Page 51 By Dorothea York 51 the only accident we had during the campaign. One of our guns dropped its missile short of its destination and Max Ostrow was hit in the ankle. The Americans were now called upon to make their attack on Nijni Puya from the flank, a feat which they accomplished with complete success. The enemy was driven from the town and seen in full retreat at 10 a. m. 'His casualties were estimated at the time at forty-six dead and wounded but later investigation revealed that they were nearer one hundred. We had but three wounded, Max Ostrow (already mentioned), Leo Todd and Peter Keshick. These men had to be sent back in springless carts over the worst of roads to Beresnik. The gunboat penetrated a bit further south and held a town which is absolutely unpronounceable for some three days with about ten men to do it with but after the engagement we were assembled and went on back to Rovdino and Tooharino (a town a mile south of Rovdino) for dinner. AGAIN ROVDINO. And speaking of dinner, the rations here were rather poor, a continuous diet, breakfast, dinner and supper, of hard tack, bully beef, tea and jam-"Seaweed" too, but that scarcely counts. Not even a smoke for all tobacco was gone long ago. We stayed on here for about two weeks and established our outposts. On October 11th, the platoons at Shenkursk, under Lts. McNabb and Mead, joined our forces at Tooharino and Rovdino to reinforce our position. This was the first time the four platoons had been together since landing in Russia. The whole company was assembled with the exception of a small detachment under Sgt. Galloway at Shenkursk. On the fifteenth, the first snow fell, an ominous sign, for it was the increasing cold that was to hold them there the whole bitter winter. At Archangel the harbor begins to freeze in October and a little later no ship can come or go except the little ice breakers that carried the mail from home. The twenty-first was a day to be long remembered for then the first mail came in from the States. Our troops had had no
Page 52 52 The Romance of Company "A" news from home since July and this was late October. There was nearly a riot of wild jubilation. More throbbing emotion that swung from certain hope to black despair was packed into those awful moments while the worn bundles were sorted than comes to a man in the heat of battle. The importance of those mails cannot be overestimated. This was the first, but it was always so, and sometimes by chance when there were no letters for some homesick doughboy, he slipped away from the eager crowd tearing open to read voraciously and stumbled along the forest trail alone-so that no one should see. A quantity of Red Cross supplies, fresh rations and a little tobacco arrived too. Everyone made holders in those days to get the last possible puff from a cigarette. A rumor reached them at this time that the Allies contemplated granting a sixty day armistice, and the news was received with an enthusiasm which was doomed to fade very soon. When the armistice had become a reality, personally it meant nothing to them. Their war continued. The next day (October 22nd) Capt. Odjard with fifty men, Russian and American, left Tooharino at six a. m. on reconnaissance and patrolled in the vicinity of Navolok, a small village on the right flank of the enemy's position. After making observations for a short time, they captured an enemy mounted scout. The patrol covered around sixteen miles and returned shortly after two in the afternoon without further incident. This little expedition is interesting in that it reached the farthest point south ever attained by any unit of the North Russian expedition, a distance of two hundred and fifty miles from Archangel. On October 24th, by order of Column Headquarters, we evacuated Tooharino and Rovdino and, leaving this area for good and all, fell back to Ust Padenga. This was not due to enemy pressure but to the fact that the river had gone down to such an appreciable extent that the river craft could no longer reach us with supplies at this point. "A" Company evacuated about six in the morning with a supply train of one hundred and eighty carts. When we started the road was frozen but before we arrived it had thawed to a quagmire of six inch mud. We did twenty miles that day
Page 53 By Dorothea York 53 under full field equipment and reached Ust Padenga about four in the afternoon. Luckily we never had to depend upon carts again. After this we transported supplies by water until the sleighs were available. UST PADENGA-SHENRJURSK-SHAGOVARI. Leaving a detachment at Ust Padenga we moved a mile up the river to Visorka Gora and there stayed for a week awaiting the Bolo's next move. Nothing much happened but a little skirmish on the 28th. The mud was still knee deep. November 1st, "C" Company came down and relieved us and the next day we returned by boat to Shenkursk. The company did not move again for nearly a week and hence enjoyed the high privilege of doing its family washing and experimenting with the Russian bath-for the first time in three weeks. It was less than six weeks since Company "A" had been divided at Beresnik to go to the front for the first time. These six weeks offered a fair sample of what was to come during the rest of 1918. Until January 19th, 1919, the history of Company "A" is a record of continual movement to the farther outposts and return for rest, continual slight encounters with the enemy without a battle, of troops ever on the watch and worn by continuous duty. For on this front as on no other the distance to Archangel would not permit of relief from there with the chance to return and rest. A "rest" on the Vaga meant retirement to a quiet sector where one might stand guard and build fortifications. Constant movement, constant danger, constant duty were the lot of the troops on the Vaga and slips of boys had already become men and veterans in these brief weeks. Boys who had been in college the June before, soldiers for a few weeks, thrown suddenly into war had shown themselves fighters at the outset and the perpetual grind of actual duty produced shock troops with a reputation to be respected and feared. The next day after our arrival here the barrack bags arrived from Archangel; also an issue of tobacco. There was hot indignation over the petty rifling of the men's effects
Page 54 54 The Romance of Company "A" COMPANY "A" SONG. We are the "Yanks" from the U. S. A., You've heard so much about, We've made all nations raise their hats, Since Woodrow called us out. We've settled things on the Western Front, And squared our debt with France. We're here to get the Bolsheviks, And you bet we'll make them prance. Chorus. While we are scrapping, There is no band to p-l-a-y. You can hear the Captain shouting, We boys of Company "A" are on our way. The Captain grabs a Lewis gun, And lays it across the fence. Since he began to knock 'em off, We haven't seen them since. For we're the boys sent over here To set dark Russia free, We've come to fight her battles And enforce Democracy. Chorus: While we are scrapping, There isn't one of us that gives a damn. We're doing this fighting, And we're doing it for Uncle Sam! Sgt. Thomas Rapp. Sgt. Yates K. Rodgers.
Page 55 By Dorothea York 55 (which we had reason to mention earlier). However, Lt. Collar, formerly of the 338th, had been assigned to our company at this time and brought with him a quantity of tobacco and supplies which he turned over to the men. At last smokes were plentiful. A detachment of Second and Third platoons stayed on at Shenkursk under command of Lts. McNabb, Collar and McPhail, until early December, but, on November 7th, 1918, a detachment of the First and Fourth platoons under Capt. Odjard (with Lts. Saari and Mead), left Shenkursk to take over Shagovari which had been reported as unfriendly. We traveled by water on board a gunboat and barge and had with us a supporting force of Cossacks under Col. Elristoff. As Shagovari is north of Shenkursk and hence was directly in our rear on the thin line from Archangel, it was important that there should be no opposition here. We reached our destination, took over the town, built fortifications, and patrolled widely in the vicinity of Kitsa, Ust Vaga, and as far north as Beresnik without encountering any trouble. We stayed at Shagovari for just about a month and although outpost duty is rarely dull there was no special excitement. It was while we were up here at Shagovari that Capt. Odjard, when he was out one day in company with our invaluable interpreter, Corp. Allikas (otherwise known as "Count Nicholas"), came upon what was to be the company mascotAnnabel of blessed memory. She was the first and last pig we ever encountered in the wilds of North Russia, and Capt. Odjard longed to take her back to the company. The peasant who owned her was not disposed to part with such perfection but finally yielded to pressure and a good bargain. The price of that one lean porker was three hundred roubles, a can of tobacco and some lard. The captain returned in triumph, Allikas bearing the tender form of Annabel. Why "Annabel" the captain does not seem disposed to reveal. Why anyone surveying the lean rangy build of "A" Company's mascot should christen her "Annabel" is a matter of wild conjecture but Annabel she was named and Annabel remained to the end of her short life. The company was inordinately proud of her and Capt. Odjard especially took visitors first to Annabel's billet as i 14
Page 56 56 The Romance of Company "A" a preliminary ceremony of introduction. News of her purchase spread. Men in other companies when opportunity offered inquired solicitously about her health. Annabel was one of the thrilling topics of the day. November proved to be an uneventful month. Half of the company were at Shenkursk, half at Shagovari and its vicinity, both detachments always waiting for what might happen suddenly, but for the time being not finding that it happened. Probably it was along about this time that an incident occurred which is not remarkably funny but the company enjoyed it at the time. Life at Shenkursk was not particularly thrilling and one must amuse oneself when the chance offered. As Sgt. Sturr tells it, the story runs something like this: It happened when he and Pat Graham were down at British Headquarters. The dugouts around Shenkursk being all that was necessary for practical protection, a very few men were sometimes left on guard here. On this account Sturr had expected that something rather good would occur some day and was waiting for it. About noon on this particular day a British officer (Col. Joslyn) and a subordinate officer appeared. Military courtesy demanded of course that Thorley should turn out the guard and this the faithful sergeant proceeded to do with the greatest solemnity and propriety although "the guard" at this particular time consisted of the sergeant himself and one very lonely private (Pat Graham). Sturr favored the colonel with a rifle salute, the private presented arms, the sergeant meanwhile enjoving himself hugely while he bawled out the orders as if he were commanding a regiment. "Is this the guard?" asked the Colonel. "Yes, sir, all present or accounted for." Thus Sgt. Sturr. "Where are the others?" "At dinner, sir." Col. Joslyn was under this disadvantage. He was not only a colonel but a British colonel. He couldn't laugh, so after a second salute he retired, leaving a very self-satisfied guard. Up to the end of October the clothing worn had been the regular olive-drab winter uniform issued here and in Franceof course including the overcoat-but now this began to be
Page 57 By Dorothea York 57 cold comfort for November is a winter month in Russia, and toward its end the thermometer was registering thirteen below zero. The English issue of Arctic garments came in none too soon and were issued early in the month. They were of good quality and well adapted to the exigencies of war and weather. The average soldier when dressed for the lines now wore: two sleeveless sweaters under the olive drab blouse, a sleeveless leather tunic, felt lined, over the blouse; a heavy overcoat made of waterproofed material giving a general effect of leather -this sheep lined almost to the bottom and having a wide stiff collar that was brought up behind the head; two pair of knit mittens, knit so as to leave thumb and trigger finger free; a pair of huge waterproofed mittens hung around the neck on heavy tape into which the hands could be thrust when not otherwise occupied-and there was lots of room left for a couple of packages of cigarettes, matches, a bar of chocolate (if one were lucky enough to have it) or other supplies of a strictly military nature; a very heavy Balaclava cap with the smallest possible opening for the face; over that a cap of white duck (the white helmets we heard so much about perhaps) lined with black fur having flaps that could be brought down over the ears and tapes tied under the chin, or pulled up and secured by the tapes over the top; about six pair of woollen socks; knit leggins that reached the knee; and a pair of Shackletons, canvas boots leather-soled reaching half way to the knee and confined by tapes that bind them on around the leg. This completed the costume. There were, however, no regulations concerning clothing and each man wore what he could get that proved comfortable and serviceable, just as his fancy prompted. On this account there were wide differences. Some preferred to leave off the overcoat when possible in favor of the leather tunic, a few clung to the olive drab overcoat, some wore moccasins which were issued with the snow shoes instead of Shackletons and others adopted the Russian valinka, a heavy felt knee boot. So it was with everything and it is quite probable that their utter lack of military smartness would have occasioned acute distress to the natty officers of Custer days. Here no one noticed or cared.
Page 58 58 The Romance of Company "A" Armistice Day passed unnoticed. The fact that the World War was ended did not reach them for several days and when it did come through the fact seemed to make no difference with their war. Their greatest battles were fought two or three months after the war was officially at an end. The reason for this state of things we were told was that troops could not be brought back while Archangel harbor was ice bound and that the fighting which went on was purely defensive. All of this was true of course but does not explain why it was necessary to maroon small detachments in precarious outposts which lay in the midst of hordes of the enemy and about two hundred or more miles from the port of Archangel. And so when the news did reach them at the different fronts it is not peculiar that they came to say to each other as a grim bit of humor, "Congratulations on the end of the war." Thanksgiving had scant recognition also. To the men of the company the day was much as other days except that a "big feed" (whose component parts are now forgotten) is reported as appearing at all points. One sergeant could recollect that in his particular group a dozen eggs, some chickens and cranberry sauce figured. (Cranberries very much like ours grew in the swamps and could be had for the picking.) Almost anyone can tell you that there were smokes but, as far as the rank and file were concerned, here the celebration ended. The officers however were given a dinner at Shenkursk by Lt.-Col. Corbley which has been reported as a thoroughly satisfactory meal. After the dinner a party was suggested for that night and so with considerable haste the vaudeville talent of the town was pressed into service and a show was put on at the American Hospital. There was dancing, a large amount of "Pevo", (Russian beer, very mild due to the fact that no sugar was procurable for fermentation) and something stronger probably, and everyone had a good time and a headache next day. UST PADENGA AREA. During the early part of December the different detachments of Company "A" were withdrawn from Shagovari and Shen
Page 59 By Dorothea York 59 kursk and took up positions in the villages of the Ust Padenga area. The first platoon was the last to move, not leaving Shagovari until December 12th. It is understood that by now all travel was by sledge. We have had cause to mention this Ust Padenga area a number of times and now that the whole company is to be assembled here, it is quite time to state exactly what territory we designate by that name. Ust Padenga included in its military sense a small area about fifteen miles south of Shenkursk and taking in three small villages, Ust Padenga proper, Nijni Gora and Visorka Gora. We usually kept our main force at Visorka Gora which was farthest to the rear and which is, by the way, generally pronounced without a trace of the "R". Our headquarters we had at a house about three-quarters of a mile to the rear of this village. The other little towns were regarded more as tentative outposts than actual positions, especially Nijni Gora which boasted but seven houses and was surrounded by forests that nearly hemmed it in. The enemy's position was of course just south of us. It was during out stay up here that we accumulated the two half grown little Russkis who clung to us through thick and thin thereafter. They rejoiced in the titles of Paul Seminoff and Alexander Popoff, and "Paul and Alex" were very soon always to be found with the cooks doing kitchen police or else somewhere underfoot with the men themselves. The company fed them as a matter of course and after a while fitted them with uniforms so that you could not tell them from the rest of us-unless they spoke. At some time before the battle of Ust Padenga in January we had picked up another Russian too, a medical officer named Tufinoff. He stayed with "A" Company exclusively at one period and was generally admired for his fearless work as an officer. His rendering of the Company "A" song in his quaint broken English will be remembered by many. He was given a D. S. O. for his work at Ust Padenga and after that battle was made a cavalry officer and sent away from us. He had always been of the impetuous reckless type and this medal
Page 60 60 The Romance of Company "A" seemed to remove the last vestige of caution. The company learned later with regret that he had been killed attempting to attack a Bolshevik town with but two or three companions. He rode into it with his own dare devil courage and was instantly killed. The Cossacks raided the place later and brought back his body, cut and torn by the knives of his many assailants. But to return. The Bolo made no infantry attack on us during December but presented continual harassing small fire by day and kept us on the qui vive by flashing signal lights by night. However, by December 6th, we knew that their artillery had come up for they fired on us all day apparently without particular malice but merely to ascertain the range. We returned the attention with our eighteen pounders.. After that they wasted little ammunition on us for some time but we could hear the distant thunder of their guns at practice firing every day. On the 7th, we sent out a small patrol with one gun. We burned some of the enemy observation posts in No Man's Land and dropped sixty shells on their lines. After that things were pretty quiet for the rest of the month. UST PADENGA SHOW. On December 11th, "A" Company staged its first show which was (like the two others that followed) largely minstrel show, with a small proportion of dancing. There were two performances, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, and the three platoons that were in Ust Padenga at the time all managed to see it. The detachment on outpost was marched in for the matinee and then went back to the dugouts that night. Details seem lacking but the show was attended it appears by Capt. Odjard in company with an English colonel on one side and a Cossack colonel on the other. The talent displayed was enthusiastically received and the holiday thoroughly enjoyed. ANNABEL. Annabel seemed to leave her native haunts with regret and
Page [unnumbered] i. nllicers on steps or Heaaquarters Biuilling. i i i E,:: i:: i ifj: I 2. Capt. Otto A. Odjard 4. Dead Bolshevik Shot While Creeping Up On Sentry. 3. Interior of Russian House-The Girls Are Spinning. -U. S. Official Photographs.
Page 61 By Dorothea York 61 reluctance for it was not until December 12th that she followed the main body of her company, but then with the escort of the First Platoon, under Lt. Saari, she left Shagovari forever and traveled as far as Shenkursk. It is doubtful to what part of an army's organization a pig belongs but at Shenkursk she was turned over to the supply sergeant whether from an impression that she herself constituted supplies or that she needed them we cannot say. At any rate, Sgt. Galloway received her kindly and billeted her in a shed for the night, putting a bar across the door for safety. Now Annabel at some time during the night became homesick and, being an animal of calm sense and action, put a firm and skilful nose in the crack of the door and walked serenely down the street. The next morning the Company's loss was discovered and Sgt. Galloway, with an ever increasing train of soldiers and civilians started out to find her. After scouring the streets of Shenkursk for some time she was discovered and the sergeant gave chase-followed by the city's population. Annabel, it is to be noted, was, quite frankly, rangy in form with lines that gave speed rather than comfort or style. Moreover, a pig is not the easiest animal in the world to catch. The hunt that followed was distinguished by action in plenty. There would be a panting chase with Annabel in the lead, a clutch at her flying hoofs, a wild scramble, and then Annabel would be streaking it down the street uttering occasional disdainful grunts. Repeat this four or five times and you have it. But at last science triumphed. Sgt. Galloway accomplished a successful foot ball tackle, and hung on. The reserves came up panting and after winding rope around her, Annabel was brought back in triumph. A few days later she went to the Front, arriving on the 18th to gladden the eyes of the assembled Company. Here it was decided to start to fatten the mascot. Inquiry as to the diet elicited the information, "Hard tack and bully beef, same's we had." It isn't what is recommended by stock journals but there was little else to offer Annabel.
Page 62 62 The Romance of Company "A" I WANT TO GO HOME. (North Russia Version) I want to go home! I want to go home! Machine guns may rattle, the cannons may roar, I don't want to go to the dugouts no more. Take me over the Sea, Where the Bolshevik can't get at me. Oh myl I'm too young to die. I want to go home!
Page 63 By Dorothea York 63 CHRISTMAS. The enemy now found means to inform us that they intended to spoil our enjoyment of Christmas by some sort of attack but it proved a false alarm. The Cossacks had some sort of skirmish with them in the morning and some buildings about half a mile from our outposts in No Man's Land were burned down. Otherwise for that day the Bolos decently held their peace. On Christmas Eve a mail with packages from home had come in together with some Red Cross supplies which included candy and smokes. At noon there was a large and satisfactory dinner and here Annabel enters our pages for the last time. By dint of careful management Annabel made the Christmas dinner of four platoons. In Russia pork was pork and as such was appreciated, but to be quite truthful the small wedges of the mascot were rather hard and stringy, perhaps due to the hard tack and slum afore-mentioned. The entire menu follows: Roast Annabel Mashed Potatoes Cream of Tomato Gravy White Bread Jam Tarts Date Pudding with Lemon Sauce Coffee Smokes Altogether, considering everything, it was a very good day. THE END OF 1918. On December 27th, 1918, Col. George Stewart, commanding officer of the entire American force, honored "A" Company with his one and only visit to this Front. He was accompanied by Col. Graham (British), commanding officer of the Vaga Column. He found the troops in excellent form and condition and congratulated Capt. Odjard upon their past work and present fine appearance. All of which was true enough. By this time there had been enough danger, action and hardship to make some of the fittest looking shock troops any officer could care to see. It had not been a picnic but on the other hand they had not been particularly abused as yet either. Right
Page 64 64 The Romance of Company "A" 64 The Romance of Company "A" DAILY ROUTINE-NORTH RUSSIAN HERO. (Revised Version.) 7:00 a. m. Arises-slow but sure. 7:30 a. m. Goes into enemy lines and destroys twenty Bolsheviksas usual. 7:40 a.m. Returns to own lines with ten Bolshevik prisoners-more to feed. 8.00 a. m. Breakfast-ham and eggs-perhaps. 8:01 a. m. Argues with cook-loses out. 8:20 a. m. Smokes issue cigarette-discouraged. 8:30 a. m. Polishes Shackleton boots-despairs. 9:00 a. m. Shaves with issue Safety razor-almost. 9:10 a. m. Reprimanded by Officer-thinks of home. 9:30 a. m. Argues with Supply Sergeant-no use. 10:00 a. m. Drinks ration of lime juice-swears vengeance. 10:30 a. m. Argument with Mess Sergeant-hopeless. 10:40 a. m, Consults doctor-pills-duty. 11:00 a. m. Physical drill-necessary evil. 11.30 a. m. Washes for tea-and M. and V. 12:00 a. m. Lines up for Chow-grass? W O W. 12:01 p. m. 'Nother argument with cook-words found useless. 12:20 p. m. Afternoon rest-Beauty sleep. 12:30 p. m. Goes skiing-slips, falls on ice-X-?-Y-(?X-' 1:00 p. m. Consults physician-imore pills-more duty. 1:30 p. m. Enemy artillery barrage-climbs into dugout. 2:00 p. m. Peeks out of dugout-'nother shell-ducks in again. 2:30 p. m. Ventures forth from dugout-very angry now. 3:00 p. m. Enters enemy lines again-disguised. 3.30 p. m. Returns to own lines again-with two enemy field pieces. 3:31 p. m. Destroys dugout. 4:30 p. m. Fatigue-the soldiers' joy. 5:00 p. m. Studies Russian in Sentinel-Nichevo. 5:30 p. m. Dinner-Bully beef and hard tack. 6:00 p. m. Indigestion-more lime juice. 6:30 p. m. Visits Y. M. C. A.-hears Communique. 7:09 p. m. Returns to quarters-general argument and expression of wrongs. 8:00 p. m. Hunts for cooties-aggravating. 8:30 p. m. Retires-sweet dreams.
Page 65 By Dorothea York 65 then they were, to use their own expression, "sittin' pretty". Col. Stewart should have dropped in later at the end of January. The inspection would hardly have been so satisfactory. The next day "A" Company lost the services of First Lt. Carl McNabb. Although up to this time he had had no opportunity to exhibit the qualities of a field officer ("A's" battles were still to come) he had been universally respected and esteemed by officers and men alike and took with him to his new assignment with "C" Company the best wishes of all. The last day of 1918 brought more mail and Christmas packages. Very appropriately, as January was soon to show, the New Year in Russia was ushered in to the roar of guns. Our artillery opened 1919 by firing two rounds, a salute to another year of Russia's War. SHENKURSK BARRACKS. Close upon the opening of the New Year came many changes for Company "A". In a few weeks more they must leave Shenkursk and its outposts, already grown so familiar, behind them forever. As yet there had been no big battles and but few casualties. In spite of cold, poor rations, and lonesomeness these months had not been such a tragic time after all-at least it seems so now compared with what had to come. As you who were there look back perhaps you can smile oftener than you sigh at this period with its well worn jokes, its old nick names, its wild pranks and nonsense that were interlarded with the sober and tragic things. The rough logs of the old barracks rise up before you. Again the snow lies heaped above it, and the mercury slides out of sight. You can almost smell the hot bully beef and hear the tinkling of a bala laki. You can see the smoke of a dozen cigarettes from bunks where familiar forms lie stretched reading again worn letters or three months old papers. The faces of old friends, faces once as familiar as your own, gone now a continent's length away, or farther still, gone West; frequent the old houses that you once called billets. Before we must go on to the bitter days
Page 66 66 The Romance of Company "A" THE SAMOVAR. To each of us, I reckon, there are moments in the day, In which all troubles vanish-all care is put away, And life is pure contentment, and to me the best by far, Is the one when sister enters with the steaming samovar. You may ridicule the Russki in any way you choose, But some Russki institutions you better not abuse. I sometimes cuss the people here from sewer-swipe to Czar, But I bless his Russkie majesty-the piping samovar. Sometimes at night I stumble in, all snowy on the back, My fingers stiff and numb with cold-so tired my feet don't track, But when I've changed my socks and thawed beside the stove a spell, The samovar comes beaming in and presto! all is well. Sometimes I'm prone to grumble in a peevish sort of way, In case the traverse fails to close or someone steals the hay; But it's fly away trouble, and it's get behind me sin, When sister and the samovar come smiling, steaming in. Now sister's very homely, beyond the least pretense, But the samovar is "homely" in the dictionary sense; His sizzling, steaming murmur and his shiny nickeled smile. To me speak hospitality and comfort by the mile. Most all of us have formed, I guess, some sort of future plans, Without including dress parades or bully beef in cans, Or candle-light or reveille or sleeping on the floor, Or any of the things we've learned in Russia to abhor. But one well proven friend of mine shall greet me years from now, Before his Russkie majesty I've registered a vow, That when I pack my ditty-bag and sail across the sea, A fat and shiny samovar shall sail along with me. Sgt. R. S. Clark.
Page 67 By Dorothea York 67 of January and March let us pause a little and go back to Shenkursk's barracks-not quite as you saw them on one occasion but as you see them now in shifting scenes and passing faces that take in every time you saw them. In from outpost! The city lies high above the frozen Vaga with its clusters of quaint buildings of logs or ship lap set among the snow, the whole of it ringed by our circle of dugouts. The country lies spread out before you visible for miles from the city's height, a stretch of snow, and snow and snow, frozen streams and great trees shooting high up into the grey sky. The civilians and a few soldiers are skating on the broad expanse of river below and the low swung basket sleighs of the well-to-do and the broad wooden-runnered sledges of the less pretentious mingle and slide by along the crooked unpaved streets. Even in the dusk these streets are gay with the dress of civilians and military. The women in their crude color combinations of red, green, yellow or purple (especially if the day is one of the frequent Holy days), each wearing a shawl over her head, give vivid life to the scene. A group of lounging Cossacks with their wild beards, arsenal of weapons and odd uniforms lend a picturesqueness of their own and the sober olive drab of British and American soldiers is quite lost in this riot of color. Hardly any two of these Cossacks dress quite alike and you can see as you hurry along some in high black woolly caps and fur lined grey coats, others with red scarfs and turbans contrasting with black coats. The long full garment is caught in with a belt in which is stuck a variety of knives. At the left hangs the huge saber, at the right a pistol and many carry rifles too at their backs. The white brick of the great monastery's buildings and walls is well nigh lost against the snow now that the long twilight has shut down, but its green and gold domes still gleam faintly. The important graves in its church yard already glow with their candles. You know that within the church the nuns are chanting now in haunting minors, the weird Oriental strains
Page 68 68 The Romance of C7ompany "A" swelling up into the nave with the effect of a great pipe organ. But you cannot pause now. The barracks are not far and you are famished for a hot supper. You've barely time to swing your few belongings into a vacant bunk when across the street some one calls "Come and get it and make it snappy," and you bolt down stairs and across with the rest. Returning with the others carrying your dinner with you, you swing up into your "upper" to eat and then lazily lighting a cigarette lean back to watch the shifting groups from behind your smoke wreaths. The tinkling of a guitar draws your eyes that way. At the end of the room, leaning back against his bunk, eyes half closed, dark chubby face in the shadow, is "Coon Dog" Williams, the life of the second platoon. With unfailing good nature he is joking with all comers and regaling an appreciative group with old Kentucky ballads that he sings with his soft Southern drawl, meanwhile strumming his own accompaniment. The song ends with a roar of applause and you turn away. A poker game is breaking up behind you. The broad back of the winner who is taking in worn paper and clinking roubles is unmistakable. Sgt. Kernan, of course. That straight military carriage of the Regular Army man sticks out even in the ease of barracks. Probablv Yarger is here too. Yes, over there shooting crap. He has leaned back on his heels long enough to tell a brother sergeant some incident of other wars. You can catch enough of it to know that he's spinning an amazing yarn that no one thinks of taking too literally about old days in the Philippines or China or on the Border. He and Kernan can romance with the best fiction writers of the day and it's entertaining while it lasts. Soldiers to the core both of them with all that implies of varied qualities. These figures fade and disappear and others take their place peopling the room again. At the poker table a couple of mess sergeants are examining and enjoying the latest of "Bug" Culver's invaluable cartoons. As they look up you recognize the faces. You remember Trombly surely. Every one knew and liked him. He was with McPhail that day you know later on when-exactly. And Rapp too. You wouldn't readily for
Page 69 By Dorothea York 69 get that lean, dark sergeant who was always just as cool and to be depended upon, whether he was calmly "sittin' pretty" in barracks or out in charge of the riskiest sort of patrol. Some chap with the natural impish tendencies of the small boy still on top gives up baiting Bugler Campas (better known as Curley's Monkey for a reason which is now forgotten) or our old friend Soflin and now tries another tack. He rises on his bunk so as to face the room and says in a mincing falsetto meant to carry, "The army wouldn't be so bad if once in a while I had a nice red apple." This is greeted with a chuckle. The joke is old but still good. Doesn't it all come back, even the smells in the place. burning lamps and candles, cigarette smoke, steaming wool, the remains of M. & V., all mixed in with the queer indescribable odor of all Russian houses? Why you can fairly see the roaches scuttling in the cracks behind the stove! Of course you can, and do you hear the tramp of a company of Cossacks outside and some of the fellows joining the strains of their wild marching song? "Oks a chem eta noch Tak velloo harashaw-" Ah, yes, the Russians. You've scarcely forgotten them, little Paul and Alex, hot headed young Tufinoff, Col. Delatorski, Capt. Kreetch, the gallant little figure of Kamaroff"There goes the Skipper." Some one at a window has informed the room. It's not late yet and the streets are full. You can hear a wild scattering of pedestrians along the way and if you look out you can see a single sleigh drawn by a saucy little pony that is trotting down the street. It's the Black, pretending to be meek and sober all at once but she's been flying down the hills of the open country at a furious pace. The driver doesn't pause and is lost in the darkness, but you have no doubt as to his identity. No one else drives like that, flying horse, big body swinging, the light sleigh slipping from side to side, holding the seat by sheer skill as one shifts in a sail boat with a frisky wind-no, there's no doubt-the captain of Company "A" has just gone by. As you come back
Page 70 70 T-he Romance of Company "A" from the window smiling to yourself you can see him as clearly as if he'd entered in the flesh, large, and blond, with eyes surprisingly brown, a slow smile that comes seldom, outwardly hard hitting, grim when he needs must, feared and reverenced by the Russians as a wolf leading a wolf pack, he himself calls you proudly his "Fighting Tigers', personally reckless but planning even a small patrol with an attention to detail that saved many a casualty-and was intended to-that was Capt. Odjard, known affectionately as "The Skipper". For be it written of Capt. Odjard that when all is said and done, he was an officer who cared for his men and cared more for them than for himself. And still the familiar faces crowd past or take remembered positions in the old scenes. Did you notice as you settled back to the last inch of your cigarette that group in the farthest corner? Look again. It's Thorley Sturr surreptitiously dividing "hooked" provisions with the third platoon. Of course you recognize him. And see. The man who just slipped in is Galloway, the company supply sergeant. Probably you have seen but little of him but if you were ever hit and taken to Shenkursk you'll never forget the way he used to come over to the hospital chuckling with a rainbow of Russian barishna all around him. It usually happened when you'd reached the point where you were so tired and bored and lonesome that you simply could not stand the beastly cold place another minute. The whole chattering lot would be dumped among the patients to amuse them and you must have proved agreeable company for the thoughtful sergeant found little difficulty in marching a squad of them over to the hospital quite often. "Attention!" A man near the door has warned the rest and slipping toward the floor automatically, you turn to see a quiet well-built sandy-haired chap appear in the doorway. He answers hastily before anyone can rise with "At ease!" and sits down by the nearest group to be eagerly welcomed. This quick interchange of civilities has become almost a game. Because this lieutenant dodges the forms of deference paid an officer, the entire outfit takes pleasure in performing them with a readiness and respect that a colonel might covet. To
Page 71 By Dorothea York 71 no other officer in all Russia would they have given that spontaneous welcome. You know it. In another case someone would have offered the reminder of course but not like this for the love of it. You recognized him at first, Lt. McPhail, the most popular officer of Company "A". And don't be misled by his quiet ways, for there's not a man in the outfit that wouldn't follow that blue-eyed Irish fighter anywhere he cared to lead. Faces slipping by again, still more faces, smiling, sober, stern, pathetic, grey with fatigue or flushed with amusement. More and more and more of them. Lt. Saari, red haired, impetuous and daring; Sgt. McCloskey with the morning report; Lt. Mead always in demand to defend a luckless prisoner in a case of court martial; Culver (Harold, not Bug) to whom you went to explain just what you thought of your daily "hard tack, bully beef and stew." That reminds us. Can't you taste again that rare mixture of baked ground hard tack, M. & V. and-we think it was bacon grease? Surely you can. You fried it all together and the result had a faint suggestion of the taste of scalloped oysters. That was mighty good at first. It palled later though. And the cooks, bless their calling, Swadener and Stone and Umphries and then the Soflin brothers and "Knoxey" of the second platoon and Troutner of the vaudeville stage, and Johnson who loathed the English so and the company clerk and Burbridge that escaped the enemy so narrowly andFading, all fading out and somehow out of all the crowding flitting forms and faces there is only one, one scene clear cut and near as though it were only yesterday. Still the background of moss-chinked logs, still the rough bunks that lined the walls, still the guttering candles and a lamp or two, still you can sense the blackness and biting frost of the Russian night outide that tries by every crack to enter the warmth and semi-light within. There is only one group now of lounging khaki figures holding half-burned cigarettes. They are listening intent and eager, half amused, wholly enthralled, occasionally breaking into laughter that hushes quickly to catch the next words, eager as children spellbound by a fairy tale. It
Page 72 72 The Romance of Company ""A" (44C~ 4 r?. c4" 4-, (9 - I 4 A VW, VA, N.12,9 IAF 'A If
Page 73 By Dorothea York 73 is in this way that they always listen when the speaker is the big sergeant in their midst and yet it's only a story meant to amuse and entertain. By the dim light you can see this central figure too, tall and broad shouldered, topped by a mass of crisp black curls, dark eyed, smiling, big in body and heart, "Curly" Rodgers, idol of a whole company and famous to a regiment. COSSACK MARCHING SONG. -E- '-i d -,-e SC A Oks - a - chem-eta noch Tak-vell - oo-har-a - shaw Nea-ve le-lo-ve grood nea-stra - del-lo-bull - doo - shaw
Page 74 74 The Romance of Compan~y "'A" 74 TeRmneoCopn"A PART FOUR-THE ROLL OF GUNS. EARLY JANUARY. The New Year had little celebration beyond what is generally described as a "big feed", the climax of this dinner being perfectly real peach pie, an almost unheard-of delicacy and therefore important enough to record. The whole company remained in the Ust Padenga area and took over and were relieved of outposts regularly. We continued in the advanced position at Nijni Gora and held also the little town of Osinove for a short time. The enemy found means to keep us interested and rather more than that. To tell the truth our entire position was precarious. On the second, and again on the fifth of January, the Bolo fired upon Nijni Gora without causing any casualties. On the eighth, growing bolder, about seven of the enemy attacked our outpost at three in the morning. They were wearing white suits for camouflage and had penetrated very near before our sentries opened fire, Pvt. Moses killing one of the enemy patrol before it withdrew. On the 16th they shelled us, and on the 17th there was another slight skirmish still without casualties to our ranks. None of these encounters were of importance and seemed to be a "matter of form" with the enemy. On the 18th Gen. Ironside, Lt. Col. Graham and Lt.-Col. Sherman inspected our troops and Capt. Odjard was awarded the Military Cross by Gen. Ironside. These were the few happenings of the early part of Jan uary. We are now to describe the opening of the Seven Days' Battle, and, although we have previously given a description of this locality, may we restate the points that made up our position at the beginning of the first day in order that the significance of what occurred may be clearly understood?
Page 75 By Dorothea York 75 Up to this time we had carried on what is usually termed guerilla warfare, a sort of dangerous flirting with the roving armies of the enemy, which, when encountered, attacked or were attacked without a clear or comprehensive plan on either side. The advantage lay with us to this extent, that we had gained land. That period was now over. The enemy had a definite position to the south of us which he had occupied. for a period long enough to allow of preparation for efficient artillery work, minute reconnaissance of our positions, and the gathering of a real army of about five thousand men. Their guns numbered perhaps five or six, not to mention pom poms,. and included some of long range that were beyond anything we could muster. On our side we held this little finger of land that ran straight into their territory and included the three villages of Nijni Gora on the right and farthest front, Ust Padenga on the left, and Visorka Gora slightly to the rear, which held our main force. Between Nijni Gora and Visorka Gora which (as their names reveal) are both built upon hills, runs a little stream between sloping banks, a tributary of the Vaga which lies to the north and east. The place had no particular advantage and several disadvantages, but we were not here in pursuance of any clearly defined idea or tactical plan. It just happened. Our fortifications comprised wire, block houses and dugouts. The engineers had cleared a space of a few hundred feet from billets and gave us that much outlook. Our artillery consisted of four pieces, two of the usual eighteen-pounders manned by Canadians, one Russian one-pounder and one pom pom, both operated by Cossacks. It is significant that several men have not known that the. Cossack gunners were at this place and gave the artillery ams two guns manned by Canadians. The usefulness of the Cossacks' guns during the battle may be gauged from this fact. Company "A" at this time comprised about two hundred and' sixty-four men, to which must be added a company of Cossacks and the eight or twelve Canadians-all we had to oppose their five thousand. Add to all this that we were twenty-sevenm
Page 76 76 The Romance of Company "A" versts from our base at Shenkursk and you begin to realize the situation which our troops faced for the four days that we held this position against the enemy's attacks. SEVEN DAYS' BATTLE. FIRST DAY. On January 18th, the fourth platoon, under Lt. Mead, had relieved the second at Nijni Gora and on January 19, 1919, the enemy was quite ready and at 6:30 a. m. began to shell our positions with shrapnel and high explosive. They hit with a perfect accuracy born of the knowledge of the location of everything we had, including our telephone wires clear around to our rear. They shelled our billets systematically one after the other, as old swordsmen used to strike the buttons neatly from an opponent's coat with a precision both insulting and deadly. We had little leisure to watch this display of skill although well aware of its results for with but half an hour's artillery preparation their infantry came down upon Nijni Gora with the same perfection of every detail that would give the advantage.. Their numbers were overwhelming, their white camouflage perfectly effective. Their form was excellent and they were fully equipped with machine guns and pom poms. We opposed their thousands with forty-five men and one officer, Lt. Meade. We had had no fore-knowledge of their approach and the surprise was tragically complete. We insert here a part of Lt. Mead's account of this action: "I was awakened by the explosion of an enemy shell right above my headquarters. I of course rushed out to our forward position where we had twenty men in position. One of my *sergeants with the balance of the men was placed in the rear of the village to cover our retreat in case such a move was necessary. For the next half hour we were subjected to a terrific bombardment when the shelling was then directed to our main position. As we lay in position I could see a long skirmish line of several hundred men about eight hundred yards *NOTE-This was Sgt. Kernan.
Page [unnumbered] 1. Sled Train on Forest Trail. 2. Our Dugouts at Ust Padenga From the Enemy Lines. -U. S. Official Photographs.
Page [unnumbered] 3. Wire and Blockhouse by Front Line Dugouts, Ust Padenga. 4. Canadian Artillery. Ust Padenga. -U. S. Official Photographs.
Page 77 By Dorothea York 77 distant from us. They were too far to do much harm so we merely opened up on them in the intermittent bursts of machine gun fire. While thus waiting one of our sentries about a hundred feet or more to my left came running in, shouting that the ravine just in front of us was swarming with men and at that moment there arose from the snow on three sides of the town swarm upon swarm of enemy troops clad in white. I at once realized that our position was hopeless so immediately got Capt. Odjard on the wire and told him it was but a question of minutes before we would have to withdraw and to have our withdrawal covered by our artillery fire." We here interrupt Lt. Mead's narrative in order to explain what was occurring at our Headquarters. Visorka Gora as well as Ust Padenga was included in the heavy bombardment that first aroused Nijni Gora to its peril, although here they had not as yet been attacked by infantry. Capt. Odjard was already preparing for their attack, but Lt. Mead's message made the impending crisis still clearer. The problem that faced him was how what defences we had could be placed most advantageously to accomplish two ends. The first was to cover the hazardous but imperative retreat that was to be expected almost momentarily from Nijni Gora. The second was to protect Visorka Gora itself from possible flank attacks. Prompt action was taken to effect both these ends and when Nijni Gora was evacuated later in the morning our defences had been disposed to meet the emergency in this way: One Canadian gun was placed to cover the road by which the fourth platoon would withdraw, the second was trained in the direction of the woods on our right flank. A skirmish line was placed here also. As for the left, as soon as Lt. Mead had been heard from, Capt. Odjard 'phoned Ust Padenga and gave two orders to the young Cossack captain who was holding the town with his company. The first was to send a platoon of his men across to Nijni Gora to engage the enemy in a flank attack and so assist the withdrawal. The second was that he, the Russian captain, with the rest of his company was to hold Ust Padenga at any cost until he should be ordered to retire. Although this outpost had not yet been attacked by enemy in
Page 78 78 The Romance of Company "A" fantry it lay in the jaws of the enemy as well as Nijni Gora and undoubtedly would be the next objective. The young captain, however, carried out his instructions to the letter with what results will appear later. And now to return to the fourth platoon. "All this time of course we were sweeping the enemy line with machine gun and rifle fire. As soon as one wave of the enemy was halted on one flank another was pressing in on us from the other side. We held our own as long as possible but the handful of men under me were.being wounded right and ieft and just at this time one of my best men, Corporal 'Victor Stier, who was operating a machine gun, was shot through the jaw. He did not leave his gun but coolly asked what he should do. I shouted to him to dismantle his gun and get back to our rear position if possible. As soon as he got started I got the few remaining men together in order to withdraw. By this time the enemy was upon us. We could not escape along the beaten trail through the village as the enemy had gotten into same and was sweeping it with fire. Our only alternative was to flee along the rear of the sheds,and houses, stopping to engage' in a house-to-house combat as we went. The snow was terrible, being waist deep, and at every other step some poor comrade fell wounded or dead. It was impossible to assist them as each man was fighting for his life. Fighting from house to house, we eventually gained the rear of the village of Nijni Gora where we joined up with our other comrades who so far had sustained no injuries or casualties. We fought desperately to hold the brow of the hill, but with the enemy closing in on us by the hundreds, this was indeed a desperate effort. While making this last stand I recall clearly Corp. De Amicis' efforts to stem the tide. There was a little clearing on our right flank facing the town which commanded a clear view of the road down which the enemy was advancing. He picked up his Lewis gun and ran to this place where he put his gun in place and lying there in the snow opened fire on the advancing line. During all this activity a platoon of Cossacks had been sent out from Ust Padenga to reinforce us. Shortly after their arrival their leader was wounded and they immediately fell into
Page [unnumbered] 1. Nijni Gora About Ten Days Before the LBat e. 2. Nijni Gora-Another View. 3. Hospital Detachment in Front of Hospital, Ust Padenga. -U. S. Official Photographs.
Page 79 By Dorothea York 79 wild disorder. There was now nothing left for us to do but take the last chance of trying to retreat through the snow covered valley. We expected of course that the artillery (ours of course) would open upon the town and thus keep the enemy under cover while we were fighting through the snow. I might also add that all this time we were also exposed to the fire of sharpshooters on both our flanks in the forests. At last we started, and never shall I forget that horrible death march. At the critical moment the Russian White Guard deserted their guns, leaving us no protection whatever. Capt. Odjard at the point of his gun finally drove them back but by the time they got into action it was too late. We were down in the valley by now and floundering waist deep in the snow. Man after man fell never to rise again and many of them were never seen by us from that day on. It took us about twenty minutes to cross this valley but it seemed like ages." Where the two roads from Ust Padenga and Nijni Gora join into one that runs back to Visorka Gora to the rear, the enemy pressed in still more closely and our casualties were heavy. They had spread out and swept down across the whole front against Visorka Gora and at this Y or crossroads they swept our few remaining men with a relentless fire from three sides. Again De Amicis attempted to set up his machine gun at this point and drive the enemy back-a feat as easy as to hold back the tide-but he did attempt it and in the very act was shot and killed. As he fell, Sgt. Kernan went toward him, believing at first that the wound was not fatal. While he stooped over the fearless Italian veteran who was quite dead, Sgt. Kernan himself was badly wounded but still went on directing the fire of his men. Falling back still further, what remained of the fourth platoon reached Visorka Gora-seven men all told of the forty-five who had faced the enemy so bravely in the morning. The whole terrible slaughter had consumed three hours. The Bolshevik army now poured out around Visorka Gora like a flood, all but surrounding us and held at bay only by our unceasing fire of artillery, rifles and machine guns. In the midst of this disastrous return and desperate resistance of Ust
Page 80 80 The Romance of Company "A" Padenga and Visorka Gora Lt. McPhail sought out the captain. "I've told Sgt. -- what to do. I want a sleigh to go out for the wounded." The captain did not oppose him, and leaping into a sleigh and followed by Sgts. Trombley, Nees and Rapp, and Pvt. Kuna, the five set out along that death strewn road, back into the relentless rain of shell and fire, back into the very arms of the enemy, back into the valley where the wounded and dying lay among the dead awaiting they knew not what; penetrating as far as possible, they loaded their sleighs and brought the wounded back-themselves uninjured by the enemy. Meanwhile Mech. Horn, who had volunteered to travel the perilous Ust Padenga road alone to carry ammunition to the Cossacks, encountered at the cross roads a number of wounded and hesitated, torn between two duties. Finally he carried up the ammunition and returning brought the wounded with him. This too was all accomplished under fire. About one o'clock the enemy had penetrated to our rear under cover of the woods on the right and opened fire from this cover upon Visorka Gora. A few shells from our artillery silenced this fire and presumably the enemy withdrew. Finally as the afternoon wore away their whole force fell back before us and their shelling ceased. The darkness dropped like a curtain upon the first great scene of a great tragedy. Our apalling losses could be reckoned now. The fourth platoon was practically wiped out. The two rescue parties had brought in four dead and fifteen wounded, some of them fatally injured. The dead were two corporals, August Richey and Guisseppe De Amicis, and two privates, Frank Scruggs and Ralph Patrick. The wounded follow: Sgt. Kernan, Corps. Lehmann and Stier, Pvts. Bildat, Cook, Houghton, Moore, Overholt, Poddig, Reed, Rice, Salter, Smith, Teeple and West. In addition Sgt. Trombley had been wounded at Visorka Gora during the attack from the woods, and Mech. Horn and Pvts. Davis and Vander Laan suffered shell shock. Nineteen men were unaccounted for that night. And now the Cossack captain with his little company who had been holding off the enemy all day was recalled with duty
Page 81 By Dorothea York 81 well done and Ust Padenga was permanently evacuated. Both outposts were now abandoned and we must make our final stand at Visorka Gora. And so with our wounded and our dead, we waited for the morning and what it should bring, but during that long night came some help and comfort. Stolid indeed was the man that could not feel a thrill when the detachment of Canadians under Lt. Winslow came in from Shenkursk to take over the artillery and bring with them a supply train of ammunition. Their numbers were very few but we were not quite deserted while those gallant comrades-in-arms stuck it out beside us. THE SECOND DAY. Night passed imperceptibly into day and the morning brought us but little hope. We added to our list of dead two names. George Smith and Victor Stier could survive their wounds but a few hours and died at the front January 20th, 1919. But there was one cause for rejoicing. Very early in the morning two of our missing men appeared exhausted from wandering for hours with hands frozen to the elbow and feet in a like plight, but still alive and returned. They had a story to tell that is probably as thrilling as any personal encounter of the campaign can boast. We only know their story as it goes among the men and the details may not be quite accurate on this account but the way they tell it is this: When the rest of the fourth platoon were withdrawing from Nijni Gora, two men, Corp. Burbridge and Pvt. Wierenga, were not warned of the movement and so were left alone in the village when the enemy came in. Alone, that is with the exception of those who had fallen while retreating. In this extremity an old woman (so they say though how she came there is a mystery) in quick pity for the hunted, concealed them hastily in a closet of the house. This hiding place would in all likelihood be speedily discovered by the enemy but it was the only chance that offered. It was as they had feared. The Bolshevik troops entered
Page 82 82 The Romance of Company "A" the house among the others and in their search came upon the closet where the two Americans lay hidden, rifle in hand and bayonet fixed awaiting them. As the door opened Corp. Burbridge ran the first man through with the bayonet and then disengaging the steel, shot a second. Hastily kicking over the lantern and plunging the room in darkness, both men leaped through a window carrying the sash with them and in the sudden darkness and confusion someway escaped into the woods and marsh that lie to the right of the outpost. Here they remained all day and all that night wandering the woods alone in weather whose temperature stood at 42 degrees below zero. And finally by night they followed the little stream already mentioned that ran between the outpost and its base somewhat diagonally and came into Visorka Gora in the morning. Their need of medical aid was obvious and they were listed as wounded to be sent back to hospital when the sled train should start. For the other seventeen missing we waited in vain and gradually hope faded and died for never from that day to this has any word as to their end come out of Russia. That they must have died long since is certain now and that is all we know. Their names here follow: William Carter, Joseph Cwenk, John Hannon, Alfred Hutchinson, Stillman Jenks, Stanley Kowalski, Max Kurowski, Charles Kussrath, Stewart McTavish, William Martin, Edward Peyton, Russell Poth, Albert Rauschenberger, Lindsay Retherford, Archie Russell, Leo Sajnaj and Edson Williams. The final toll of January 19th embraced yet two more men, making twenty-five deaths in all. Corp. Lehmann survived his wounds for four days and died January 23rd, 1919, at Shenkursk. Pvt. Cook lived until the next month but finally succumbing to his injuries died at Archangel Hospital February 23rd, 1919. Twenty-five deaths in all (which includes our missing) and twelve wounded who survived their wounds, which does not include the three shell shocked. On the 20th, as soon as practicable and despite the temperature, we sent back our wounded to Shenkursk hospital for care. The dead were also removed to the city for burial. The
Page [unnumbered] 1. Headquarters Building at Visorka Gora. 2. The Farthest Outpost-Outskirts of Nijni Gora Overlooking Enemy Territory. 3. Interior Headquarters Building-Boxing Bout in Progress. — U. S. Official Photographs.
Page [unnumbered] 0 i 1 5 I
Page 83 By Dorothea York 83 line of sleighs, weighted with the harvest of war, wound back up the trail and out of sight. It might not be long before we too should pass that way as white and silent with suffering or with death. The enemy artillery had opened up again shortly after eight o'clock and their shells boomed and crashed all day until late afternoon, hitting again with the same deadly accuracy. There was a heavy exchange of machine gun fire and considerable sniping went on. Since their infantry attack of yesterday had so unbelievably failed, they seemed bent on blowing our positions to atoms with their shells. The day wore on. Many of the men were in need of rest by this time. The continual shelling and sniping kept them always on the qui vive and there had been constant guard duty. One diary reads for this day: "Am all in. Have only had six hours' sleep in three days and nights." But this was only the beginning. A day of outpost, fatigue and guard duties, made more exhausting by reason that the snow was very deep and difficult to walk in, came to a close without an infantry attack. At night a small mail came in. The news from peaceful little Michigan towns must have sounded oddly that night-but rather pleasant too. Despite the continuous bombardment we suffered no casualties. THE THIRD DAY. The third day, January 21st, also passed without an infantry attack. The enemy artillery shelled intermittently from shortly after noon until 10:45 p. m. and sniping went on with keen interest. There were no casualties among our men. The Bolo contented himself with this harassing fire which to tired men was nerve-racking in the extreme, necessitating as it did constant danger, constant watchfulness and loss of sleep and proper food. In the evening Lt.-Col. Corbley arrived from Shenkursk.
Page 84 84 The Romance of Company "A" THE FOURTH DAY. By the fourth day it seemed that the enemy had lashed himself to a fury. The days before had been only preparation. At nine in the morning the terrific bombardment began, and thundered and shrieked, crashed and tore, hour after hour. We cannot do better than to quote a terse line from a diary written at this time-"Jan. 22, '19. Hell tore loose today." Food had ceased to be served in any interpretation of the word. When the opportunity offered one snatched what was available and ate it as it was. Before noon Lt.-Col. Corbley had returned to Shenkursk leaving entire command to Capt. Odjard. During the early afternoon the enemy drawn up for an attack was seen to come out of Nijni Gora in five waves, two hundred and fifty to the wave, and advance upon Ust Padenga, which had, as we have said, been evacuated by the Cossack Russians before-a fact that the Bolsheviki did not know. It was only a matter of time now before they should advance further. By tomorrow at the latest there would be a show on. Our men at Visorka Gora could see them swarming over Nijni Gora, Ust Padenga and their vicinity. tThe Canadians were hammering away with our two guns and the Americans kept up a fire of machine guns and rifles. The day was like other days of action and yet more than usually filled with those incidents of bravery and tragedy that mark a battle in its passing. For the work of those few hours three men were cited for gallantry in action. Two were runners who carried messages from platoon to company headquarters under the heavy fire which distinguished the shelling of the twenty-second. They were Pvts. Richard Rice and Alexander Liatses. The other was Corp. Joseph Franzac who continued at his machine gun until wounded by the enemy. Pvt. Thomas was also wounded slightly during the shelling. With the great exception of the tragedy in the sergeant's room these were the casualties of the day. "The Hospital," which was any house selected as being safest, had been moved back several times during the bombard
Page 85 By Dorothea York 85 Bii Dorothea York 85 ment and finally had reached the "Sergeant's Room," as it was called, a hut near the center of the village which was built on a side hill so that the upper floor could be reached from the ground on one side, and the lower floor had been hollowed out of the side hill. Here a number of men were gathered as it was a sort of ready-built dugout and considered the safest place in the vicinity. Corp. Gottschalk and Pvt. Cole stood by the window near the stove and Sgt. Rodgers sat near by. Lt. Powers was dressing the wounds of Lencioni who had been hit at an outpost a while before, and was now lying on the table while the medical man worked over him by the light of a lamp. The noise of the battle raged outside. The booming of the big guns, the rattling of machine guns and crack of rifles came to them distinctly. Suddenly a shrapnel shell tore through the roof and out one side, scattering death and desolation in its wake. The doctor was fatally injured and his patient Lencioni again wounded, one leg being torn away by the flying steel. Milton Gottschalk and Elmer Cole were killed instantly. Corp. Boren hastily entering the room, lifted Sgt. Rodgers from the floor where he had been thrown by the shell concussion. No flesh was torn, no blood flowed, but he lay limp and motionless. As though even fate had dealt gently with so much life and youth there was not a mark or bruise on the length of his big body but "Curly" too was dead. His jokes would never set the barracks in a roar again. His unquenchable spirit of laughter would never again relieve the tension and calm the raw nerves of an outgoing guard or patrol. Curly was dead. Outside the Bolo's guns boomed on; the machine guns spat hate and rifles flared defiance. The lamp still burned upon the table, undisturbed, but Curly was dead. When most men fell, their loss was deeply felt by a buddy and a few friends but for Curly the favorite of barracks and outposts, a whole company mourned bitterly that night and many nights to come. Darkness dropped upon the little garrison. The enemy in his white camouflage was lost to sight and still the firing went on. At 7:30 the shelling ceased but the smaller fire continued until two hours later when orders were received from the English to evacuate the Ust Padenga area. The English "Tommy"
Page 86 86 The Romance of Company "A" has too frequently asked, "Why did the Yanks turn tail at Ust Padenga?" That was why. After a stubborn resistance of several days against overwhelming numbers and artillery which made our two small guns ridiculous, with no relief and crushing casualties, a position not of the best, the thinnest thread of communication and support, and the ammunition running low, a withdrawal might seem advisable to the most sanguine mind; but at that there was no move to go until Capt. Odjard received the order from English superior officers. And then they went. It was imperative that the evacuation should take place without the knowledge of the enemy and to this end the outposts were withdrawn very cautiously. The Canadians had already pulled their guns down the hill and now attempted to hitch the horses to them and reach the house which stood back of Visorka Gora and was used as Headquarters. Some of the horses had been killed and the rest were weak with under feeding and overwork. One of the guns slipped off the road near Headquarters and as it could not be replaced was there abandoned. Before leaving it, however, they detached the breech block which was sent on to their Canadian commanding officer at Shenkursk by a special messenger, irrefutable proof that their gun had not been taken by the enemy. These Canadians, all veterans of the Western Front, had never lost a gun and with a very pardonable pride they could not endure to break that record now-or rather to be thought to have broken it. It required all of our -horses and a number of the Cossacks hitched with them to bring our last gun with us. All were now gathered at Headquarters ready for the start. Two blockhouses were burning and they stood in the street waiting for the glare to die down and leave concealing darkness. Capt. Odjard& had ordered no talking or smoking but the Russians chatted among themselves and the lights of cigarettes appeared among them. Taking about fifty of these Cossacks into a house and using Allikas as interpreter and a very business-like appearing gun for emphasis, the "Skipper" explained forcibly that the next man who endangered the lives of the whole in this way would be shot in his tracks without warning, ceremony or benefit of clergy.
Page 87 By Dorothea York 87 Our position was precarious to a degree and the occasion one of deadly earnest. Allikas interpreted apparently rery faithfully and accurately for the lot became as meek as so many sheep and some crossed themselves hurriedly. The Captain with his little company, though at the mercy of all Russia, still stood a terror and a power throughout the country side. And then of course the moon came up. It hadn't shone for many nights and appeared now as a most unwelcome sight, but finally the start was made. THE FIFTH DAY. SHOLOSItA. At 1 a. m., January 23rd, Company "A". the Canadians and Cossack Russians, shouldered their packs and wearily started back into the darkness. They had just cleared the village when the Bolo, as yet unaware of the movement, began again to shell Visorka Gora. For once they shelled in vain. The place was silent and utterly deserted as perhaps it stands today, a tiny group of houses set down in the wilderness of North Russia, surrounded and hidden from the outer world by the forests of giant pines. The heavy snow made walking difficult and the smooth leather sole of the Shackleton boots slipped and slid awkwardly on the road. Many unbound the laces and walked on in stocking feet. It was easier-while the socks lasted. Verst after verst was covered in the darkness while the boom of shells went on behind them until at seven in the morning they dragged themselves into the village of Sholosha, twelve hard versts from Visorka Gora. All of them were giddy from want of sleep and desperately hungry. Supplies were given out and a meal of hard tack and stew dispatched. The M. & V. was prepared by tossing the cans into the stove to thaw and heat and then pulling them out before the tin melted to open the can and consume its contents. There are more satisfactory methods of cooking in vogue but what would you have? Orders were to get rest and sleep but
Page 88 88 The Romance of Company "A" 88TeRmneo.opn A Hp., U. S. Troops, Archangel, Russia, February 10, 1919. From: Hq. U. S. Troops. To: Captain Otto A. Odjard, 339th Infantry. Subject: Honorable Mention. 1. The following is quoted for your information: "At Ust Padenga on January 19th, 1919, he commanded a mixed force with gallantry and determination retaining the position under a heavy attack, and withdrawing the force in good order when ordered to evacuate." (Signed) C. GRAHAM, Colonel, Commanding Dvina Force. 2. A copy of the above will be kept on file with your record. By order of Colonel Stewart. M. A. GOFF, Captain, 339th Infantry, Adjutant. 1st Batt'n, 339th Inf., Kitsa, Russia, 6 Feb., '19. From: C. 0. 1st Bn., 339th Inf. To: C. 0. 339th Infantry. Subject: Co. "A" 339th Infantry. 1. I recommend that Company "A" 339th Infantry be mentioned in block for their excellent work, fine spirit and manner in which they have performed all duties they have been given, and gallantry in action. 2. This Company was in action continuously and fighting against overwhelming numbers of the enemy from Jan. 19th to 24th 1919, at Ust Padenga and are holding an important position at the present time. They have performed excellent service during the whole time they have been out there. J. B. CORBLEY, Lt. Col. 339th Inf.
Page 89 By Dorothea York 89 there was too much to be done for that. During the day the mail came in. At least that fateful week had mails. No one expected to stay long. The peasants of the village appeared frightened and by now the Bolo must be in hot pursuit. Lt.. Winslow received orders to take his one gun and its crew straight on into Shenkursk and so left us here. This separated us temporarily from any artillery but a new gun was provided next day when we stayed our retreat to make our next stand. Meanwhile at Shenkursk they were holding a funeral for the twelve dead who had been brought in from the moving battle which still raged and still forced the troops back nearer and nearer the town. Those were days of stress even so far back as Shenkursk, and by January 23rd it was not the rear but almost the front. Preparations for the funeral were hurried to make way for what must be done for the living but in spite of the impending crisis everything was done that conditions would allow and care could suggest-under the circumstances a great deal more than one could have hoped. For it must be remembered that these funerals (of which the Shenkursk burial was the largest) were not matters of form accomplished by persons whose duty it was and so managed perfectly. It was more intimate than that. A burial was completed with difficulty by men who had cared for the dead. In this case a churchyard just outside of Shenkursk on the banks of the Vaga (where Lt. Cuff of "C" Company had been buried) was chosen for the interment. The common grave was dug with no small pains through the very deep snow and flinty earth large enough to lay in the twelve bodies side by side. The funeral started from the American hospital where the bodies had been prepared and laid in coffins made by the Engineers. The cortege was made up of sleighs which passed down the white covered road to the church yard. Here the snow was so deep that a path was shoveled from the main road to the entrance and even then the coffins were carried a short distance to the grave. No chaplain officiated as there was none in Shenkursk at
Page 90 90 Thte Romance of Company "A" the time but Lt. Warner, who was in charge of the ceremony, led the Lord's Prayer. A firing squad from Headquarters Detachment fired three volleys over the grave and Bugler Culver blew taps. The Engineers were making markers which would have been put in position next day on the graves but that with the morning of the twenty-fourth the bombardment of Shenkursk began and they were never placed. Two of the twelve men were not from our unit but the other ten markers would have borne the names of Sgt. Yates Rodgers, Elmer Cole, Guisseppe De Amicis, Milton Gottschalk, Sebastino Lencioni, Ralph Patrick, August Richey, Frank Scruggg, George Smith and Victor Stier. Requiescant in pace. And so they left them in their narrow billets to their peace while not many versts away their nearest buddies fell back and back fighting as they went and not for one moment forgetting the forms whose absence thinned the skirmish line. When night came on in Sholosha they were waiting the order to move on again and take to the bitter cold of the road. Some stood in the street, and others, more fortunate, gathered around the stove smoking and trying to talk; but all were so tired by then that occasionally some one would drop asleep standing or sitting up, pack on back, ready for the start. It had been a long time since enough sleep had been possible. Suddenly there was a sound of firing outside and upon opening the door they heard bullets flying by. In the street everything was black darkness and wild confusion. Horses kicked and ran. In fact the last of a two-mile sled train was just flying by. Officers shouted incoherent orders, a line of men swept by calling unintelligibly, the bullets whistled overhead. Rum had been rationed pretty freely and added something to the general wild uncertainty. Where the firing came from no one knew (no one knows today) but it seemed likely that the pursuing enemy had caught up and was attacking, perhaps surrounding the town. Lt. Mead called, "Form a skirmish line!" and it was done, but to fire was risky as our own patrol was out and had made no sign. This state of uncertainty lasted perhaps fifteen minutes when in the midst
Page 91 By Dorothea York 91 of this hubbub of shouting officers, racing horses, darkness and bullets, came the captain's whistle. Everyone fell in. Whereupon Capt. Odjard delivered a short and pithy speech. In brief he began with strong words of warning, concerning losing one's head in emergencies; went on to read a telegram from Gen. Ironsides which had arrived that day, complimenting the men on their gallantry and so forth, and topped off with the advice that if the Cossacks wanted to shoot each other, it wasn't our affair, so let them. Afteri this summing up of the situation at some time between 10 p. m. and midnight we evacuated Sholosha and marched on toward Spasskoe, Capt. Odjard ahead, Lt. Mead in command of the main body. The Russian drivers could not be stopped and some of them never reined in until the safety of Shenkursk was reached. Some never arrived at all and presumably the supplies went to replenish Bolo larders.. THE SIXTH DAY. SPASSKOE. The whole country seemed up and hostile that night, or rather that morning for it was now the twenty-fourth. As they marched, signal lights flashed from village to village all the way. In one which seemed dark and silent while they passed through, the lights flared up behind them as soon as its outskirts were cleared and three shots rang out. They kept straight on and were not attacked. The enemy lined both banks of the river and controlled the whole area that was very clear, and by his sufferance we traversed his land. He could have surrounded and massacred the whole force that night but marvelously he did not, and some way wearied men and horses marched through the midst of them and escaped. Another day would surely have been too late. The road from Sholosha to Spasskoe which was their objective is not very long, about six versts, but if you chance to be all in to start with and are carrying a ton or so of Arctic
Page 92 92 The Romance of Company "A" outfit besides a pack and the night is dark and the enemy surrounds you, it's much longer. The road itself was terrible and led through the river bottom, but finally about two in the morning they attacked that last dishearteningly steep hill that is just before Spasskoe. They crossed the plains, climbed a much gentler slope into the town itself and began to find billets and generally settle in, for here they were to hold and fight off the pursuit. The retreat had now brought them nearly to Shenkursk which lay only a few miles farther on. Capt. Mowhatt had already arrived from Shenkursh with several Canadians and one gun. Almost all snatched a little sleep now, but a few walked to the bluff to watch the enemy's movements. Lights still flashed, one especially from a window across the country could be seen signalling by enlarging and contracting. It was answered by a light in the church tower which stood on the outskirts of Spasskoe where we had just passed and not more than two hundred yards from the vantage point where our men stood and watched it in the early hours of the morning. At seven a Cossack patrol which had been sent out to ascertain the enemy's numbers and position came back terrified by what they'd seen. It was evident the pursuing enemy were about to attack in force. About eight o'clock Capt. Mowhatt, Lt. Mead and Lt. MIcPhail mounted into the church tower and watched the road with lglasses where the first of the pursuing Bolsheviki were seen climbing the steep hill and swarming over the plains before the town. In an hour these plains were full of them. A shell dropped in the street. Evidently the show was on. The men snatched a cheerless breakfast of unbreakable hard tack and jam-which was no breakfast at all, but which was all they had to start the day on. Such as it was, it was the first food since the M. & V. at Sholosha and before that stretched four exhausting days and more of scanty rations taken when and how it was possible. And such as it was, it was all they had that day until late afternoon. They were called to the town's edge to form a skirmish line. As we have said, the church stood near the edge of the
Page 93 By Dorothea York 93 bluff on which the town is built and in front of this they formed the line. On the right the stone wall of the churchyard afforded low breastworks. By digging into the snow, which lay nearly even with the top of the wall, and lying flat in the shell of snow thus provided, one gained a measure of protection. On the left the only available protection consisted of wood piles and hay stacks. Tired muscles were forced to the task of hastily piling the wood to form a low wall and behind these and among the stacks more men sought cover from flying bullets. On the far left Capt. Odjard stood with the Canadians and a few Americans beside our one gun, directing the movements of our troops and observing the enemy. Lt. Mead had a few men on the far right inside the walls of the church yard. These men took up their positions behind the grave stones, Corp. Danielson remarking grimly as they did so that it was a wonderful how carefully each want of the men was supplied by a thoughtful government and staff. Everything provided on the campaign-even tombstones for the men. During the action that followed the church tower was occupied by Lt. McPhail continuously and by Capt. Mowhatt who was back and forth during the early hours of the day. This was our position during the battle and thus strung out in a thin line the men lay and waited. The day had opened with a hazy sun. It was not intensely cold as on some days, but hunger, weariness and exposure gave the cold a biting, penetrating chill that made each man in his shell of snow completely wretched. At intervals it was allowable to spend five minutes by the fire in a house near by. In five minutes the pain of thawing flesh had just begun and that was all. Finally at 10:30 the barking of machine guns was joined by the boom, shriek and crash of shells. The artillery had begun trained on the church tower. It was practically impossible that they could have hauled up their big guns from their rear so soon. Perhaps these were brought in from somewhere on either flank. As soon as the enemy artillery opened fire Capt. Mowhatt was in the tower locating the position of their
Page 94 94 Th2e Romance of Company "A"' guns by the flashes. The men watched him descend again and walk fearlessly out into the open toward the enemy in front of our gun to give the gunners a target by which to aim. Then saw him return once more and 'phone his orders from the belfry. The boom of "Big Ben", our one long range gun, came from our rear firing overhead from Shenkursk. The Bolo was shelling into Shenkursk as well as Spasskoe and this was his answer. There was scarcely any rifle fire although there were perhaps two thousand Bolos just out there-but to the men the enemy was not visible so there was nothing to do but conserve rifle shells, hang on to one's nerves, and wait. The road was having the worst of the fire. The line was ordered to split here and accordingly divided between Knox and Sgt. Nees, the former going toward the stone wall, the latter toward the haystacks. This movement was just accomplished when a shell burst at this point toward the left. For a moment everything turned black from the terrific concussion. There was a general piling up that resembled a foot ball scramble, and then word passed along the line that Sgt. Nees was hit. Time wore on. At some time during the day a dozen loads of hay passed within eight hundred yards of theni but they passed on unchallenged, in fact had passed American Headquarters in Shenkursk unchallenged and undisturbed. It was thought later that the hay must have concealed men or supplies but if it did the ruse was successful. They went their way unmolested. The shells fell steadily, hitting the church and its vicinity with considerable accuracy. And still at the tower's foot in a thin line and so near that the officers' remarks were quite audible, lay Company "A" waiting. Outranged and outnumbered as usual, miserably cold, immeasurably weary, with nerves already at the breaking point strung higher at each crash, they watched the shells burst a few feet away andwaited. Clearly the Bolo was getting the range. Each shell dropped nearer with a deadly, devilish accuracy. Suddenly a well-aimed shot struck and tolled the bell beside the Canadian captain. In the comparative silence of the next moment the calm voice of the veteran of Vimy Ridge came in the tones of
Page 95 By Dorothea York 95 a dignified side show "spieler". "One cigar," announced Capt. Mowhatt to the enemy. The contrast was too much. The tension broke and everyone within earshot in that wretched little company for one brief instant forgot the cold, forgot their ever present hunger, forgot the shells, forgot even the Bolo and all his works and shook with laughter. The next second they were back to a realization of their critical situation. Time passed. The shells still dropped, the machine guns rattled, the half-frozen men still lay miserably in the snow, as the bullets clipped about the tower, continuing to strike the bell with a sharp little ping. of mettal on metal. Lieut. McPhail could be heard absent-mindedly continuing the one-sided conversation with the enemy gunners, "Hit 'em again " and an encouraging "That's right. Get a cigar," as one came nearer, meanwhile coolly keeping his position and making his observations. The infantry came no nearer and the fire continued. About one o'clock Capt. Mowhatt, who was again by the gun and leaning over it to watch the Bolo fire, was struck by flying steel from a shelll and fatally wounded. As they took him away, he spoke to a nearby sergeant, "Tell the Captain I couldn't wait." It was the last the men ever saw of a gallant officer and a brave man. It was only an hour later when a piece of shrapnel severely wounded Capt. Odjard. Acting Sgt. Chesher, who was receiving orders to be carried to one of the positions occupied by our men, lost an arm by the same shell. The Captain was at once removed to Shenkursk hospital. Either at this same time or directly afterward two Canadian gunners were killed and our only gun, wrecked by a shell, lay useless. The few remaining Canadians withdrew from this point as it was clearly too exposed and dangerous and there was now no longer any object in the risk. With the "Skipper" wounded seriously, perhaps fatally, the men were deserted indeed. Under this bitter blow, fit climax to a disastrous day, the whole line sensed for a fleeting moment that wavering of definite purpose which may by a touch become panic. The steady shelling had hit the kitchen and the commissary was preparing to pull out and establish
Page 96 96 The Romance of Company "A" itself farther back. A meal had been prepared which must be transported. As the sleighs were hastily loaded Sgt. Culver stood with complete unconcern in the middle of the road-an unhealthful locality certainly-arguing calmly with Cook Swadener. "Save the tea," he was saying, "Don't spill it!" There are even distinct elements of humor in the story now, but in the face of this absorption to duty the line no longer wavered. It held. There was another pause. It seemed to our skirmish line that time had stopped. After the captain was hit no one at first assumed command of the whole body. Each officer simply directed his own detachment. The shelling boomed on uninterruptedly and there was no artillery with which to reply. Chas. Lang was wounded in the shoulder and Max Ostrow succumbed to shell shock. These were the last casualties of a disastrous day. After seeing all the wounded safely to the Shenkursk hospital the sleighs returned. It was clear that withdrawal was the only course. No artillery, no chance to use rifles, outnumbered five to one and every man of ours worn out, Lt. Saari, the senior officer, ordered a withdrawal. There was an open space to cross before the shelter of the town was reached and across this they stumbled with very little speed but all that could be mustered at the time. It was now sometime in the early afternoon. Meantime Lt. Mead in the church yard was not aware of the state of things in the village. A runner went up to call him and on his entry into the town, he discovered the loss of the captain and the Canadians, learned of the wrecked gun and that our men were lining up to leave. The Cossacks came in too and of all times in the world desired their tea! Communication with Shenkursk, which was Headquarters, was broken and Lt. Mead found a Canadian sergeant to fix the 'phone. The shells were dropping continually and tearing great rents in the tower where the 'phone was placed, a sort of temporary Headquarters. While the Canadian was working swiftly, Dr. Katz, the little army surgeon, who was constantly at the front, looked up at these apertures, remarking calmly, "We have ventilation anyway." The telephone again in commission, Lt
Page 97 By Dorothea York 97 Mead got Shenkursk and asked for orders. There was a delay, some confusion, the line was hit again, and finally, Lt. Mead, deciding to risk it no longer, sent word. "We're on the way," and left the place. At 2:30 p. m. our troops again yielded to overpowering pressure and evacuated Spasskoe. Half way back to Shenkursk they were intercepted by Capt. Fitzsimmons with a detachment of "C" Company sent out to cover "A's" withdrawal. But the journey seemed almost over and there was comfort in the thought of Shenkursk, a base.of supplies well established and fortified. Here would be reinforcements, food, sleep and rest at last. Let the Bolo hammer at its outskirts, there would be comparative safety if they could reach it and it was now very near, for Spasskoe is perhaps five miles from Shenkursk. Doubtless there was even a passing thought, now that help and rest were so near, concerning tomorrow when, being fed and slept up, a man could go in for such frivolities as hunting up a Russian bath. After these long days of grime and cooties, a hot bath would be perfect heaven. And there were calls to the hospital that they would like to make. At least, it would be good to rest. At four in the afternoon they dragged themselves into Shenkursk which was still under shell fire. It was already dark of course (there are but four to five hours of daylight in January) and they were unsteady with fatigue and loss of sleep but hunger called loudest. They found food in different places. One story goes that as soon as they had fairly arrived some one-we believe it was Cook Swadener, but whoever he was, he filled his place that night-came to Lt. Mead with the suggestion that perhaps the men would like a little supper. (It had been ready at Spasskoe but there was no opportunity to eat there.) They would. It was steaming rice, wonderfully hot, deliciously eatable. Lt. Meade pulled off a glove and set the example by plunging in one hand and scooping it up. The men followed suit with grimy hands. Disgusting? Possibly, but starving men will overlook a little dirt. They found no fault with that meal. It is still remembered as delicious-and wonderfully filling.
Page 98 98 The Romance of Company "A" We have mentioned that the rum ration had already been used as a bracer and tonight some of the men were already drowning the horrors of their yesterdays and the uncertainties of their tomorrows by buying a few hours of delicious warmth and happiness. Happiness tonight at the risk of-well anything that tomorrow might bring. Some, weary as they were, made for the hospital to see their friends. The rest wanted only sleep and dropping down almost anywhere slept heavily and dreamlessly in the happy belief that temporary security and rest was theirs. For the present the long hard marching was over. They had escaped. It was an almost universal belief but without foundation. The officers were not sleeping but facing a desperate situation and planning a hazardous retreat. The situation was briefly this: The enemy artillery had that day shelled Shenkursk from all four sides, proving that it was virtually surrounded. With "C" Company as well as "A", infantry attacks could be held off indefinitely but again our artillery was hopelessly outranged. The Bolo big guns could pound Shenkursk to ruins, and trapped and held off from them as by a long arm, we had no way to prevent it. That the outlying country was a nest of opposition was known only too well from what we'd seen on the way back. Nevertheless flight, if it were still possible, was the only course. At 10:30 orders were received for the evacuation of the city and about eleven the sleeping men were rudely snatched from their short rest to a night of even greater agony than they had known before. In the darkness and extreme cold (sixty below) of the streets outside there was great confusion and long waiting before a start was possible. The English, who had ordered the retreat, had stipulated that the American, British and Russian wounded who filled the great hospital at Shenkursk must be left behind as a matter of military necessity. In dealing with an enemy who might be expected to observe the laws of civilized warfare, this could have been done with but little risk to the wounded and was, from a military standpoint, the proper course to pursue. They could be only an encumbrance and to
Page 99 By Dorothea Y'orke 99 succeed at all, the evacuation must be accomplished with skill and speed. But the American garrison at Shenkursk did not argue in that way. They believed it meant death to their helpless friends and what death was a matter of horrible conjecture. Consequently the first question each man asked when warned of the move was, "What about the wounded?" The story goes in army talk that the Canadians hearing the order that night refused absolutely to move their guns or stir a foot leaving the wounded behind. It was like them and the story may very well be true. Certain it is that Lt.-Col. Corbley (and every American backed him in it) flatly refused to obey this order and the hospital was emptied into sleighs which joined the swelling stream of the long sled train and then slipped away far ahead of the main body toward Bereznik and Archangel and were lost to sight in the darkness. It was a horrible ride for sick and wounded men but far less horrible than to stay. Everyone was going, that was clear. "A" Company was again complete, including those left with the supplies at Shenkursk. "C" Company, the Canadians and White Guard Russians were of course leaving also and inhabitants of the town, discovering the night operation that was intended, poured out in hordes afraid to be left to the mercy of the Bolsheviki and ready to start north toward Archangel. These citizens were supposedly to follow the military from the city. The larger part did, but some sleighs mingled with ours all along the route. There was neither time nor opportunity to earry supplies. Several of our guns were spiked and left behind. They had done us little good anyway. Great stores of ammunition, ordnance, and commissary were left to their fate not to mention personal possessions of great value. Each man chose hastilyl what could be carried in his pockets. Souvenirs of heavy silver and other things of value had hardly a glance. Extra clothing, letters, diaries-all were thrown to one side. The choicest and smallest of the souvenirs and rations for the day to come were all that could be carried.
Page 100 100 The Romance of Company "A" Rations were a matter of choice. They were all thereyours if you cared to take them. Some canned salmon had arrived that day, the first that had come through. Queer how little things like that stick in the mind. Everyone remembers that salmon. It seemed even then a shame to leave it there behind and many carried a tin or two away when Galloway gave it out, figuring as they did so that being a novelty it could be traded with other men for anything else they cared for when there should be a chance to stop and eat. Shenkursk was full of sleighs and every man needed room in one on such a bitter night, but for some reason the English officers refused "A" Company more than three for the transportation of everything. We took one more for luck but very evidently there were no sleds for men. We have read that the retreat from Shenkursk was a very clever piece of strategy on the part of the British command. Perhaps it was but when (as might have been foreseen) the Bolo discovered our movement, took over all the sleighs and pursued swiftly in comparative ease our exhausted men who had been forced to leave these sleighs to walk, we do not find it so very clever. And when we remember the Russian troops were properly equipped with one sleigh to each two men and thus provided followed the wounded swiftly, leaving us far behind, we find still less to admire. HoweverAfter seeming eternities of waiting and confusion the lines were formed, the artillery leading, "A" company next, and "C" acting as rear guard, and at midnight the slow-moving painful advance began and Shenkursk was left behind forever. THE SEVENTH DAY. RETREAT FROM SHENKURSK. The main road north from Shenkursk was impossible. It would surely be blocked by the enemy. A desperate chancethe only one-lay in a one-track winter trail which Capt. Kreetch of the Russian army had told them of. It crossed the
Page 101 By Dorothea York 101 frozen river a little way out of town and then ran almost directly north into the open country. At three a. m. the town was cleared. When the first detachment reached the banks of the frozen Vaga some turned and looked back. The night was darkthere is nothing blacker than a Russian winter's night-but against the white landscape of snow winding back and back as far as the eye could see came the endless stream of hunted humanity, two abreast for the military, an occasional sleigh of supplies, and back of all or sometimes mingling with the troops, the sleighs of Shenkursk's citizens, the man and woman at the horse's head, the children and the silver roubles packed in with the choicest and warmest of the household goods. A sleigh will hold so pitifully little. A slow and quiet procession but terrible to see and never to be forgotten. The river lay still with a deadly stillness that seemed ominous, the pines ran up, straight and tall and motionless, the snow lay crisp and glittering covering all. The bitter biting cold lay upon them. Everything from the leaden lowering sky to the hard earth seemed aloof, overwhelming, unrelenting, untouched by their misery and impassively, mercilessly opposed. They stumbled on appearing motley enough if anyone had cared to observe it. Some wore moccasins, some Russian valinkas. These were fortunate. The deep ruts of the dark road torn by artillery travel covered with slipping snow made the Shackleton boots again impossible and they were unbound and thrown away to the roadside by those who had worn them. Lt. McPhail with his unfailing forethought and care of his men had ordered at the start that the long heavy greatcoats should be slashed off above the knee. It was done hastily and they hung in jagged scallops, but it helped wonderfully in the hours that followed. The burdens they bore would have been ridiculous if they had not been so pitiful. One little chap later staggered into Shagovari still clinging to a tin of Sunshine biscuits tied over his shoulder by a string. The march began in earnest now and they settled into it doggedly. Verst after verst, verst after verst. Thud, thud, thud, the sound of weary marching feet. Verst after verst.
Page 102 102 The Romance of Company "A" Occasionally another article that could be spared was thrown to right or left, and fell into the snow, there to lie forever for all they knew or cared. Packs, boots, pistols, belts and the few souvenirs that had been taken at Shenkursk went first. On, on, on. They knew they could go no further and yet someway they stood and plodded on. Verst after verst, verst after verst. Slowly the minutes stretched into hours, and hour followed hour. Three o'clock before the limits of Shenkursk were passed, then four and five. Some find a little respite by taking turns clinging to the sides of the sleighs for a little time, and then, yielding place to others, walk on. But four sleighs will not allow even that comfort for all. The darkness lies dully upon everything and still the long line crawls across the snow. Will there never be a stop? The big lined coat still clings unbearably. Strip it off, though the cold bites into one's flesh. It's gone. We had hoped to save the letters in the pockets. The little packet seemed to weigh like lead. What does it matter? We may not live to care beyond tonight. On, on, on. Six, then draggingly seven and half past. Hark! From behind comes the steady boom of the enemy's guns. With the morning they are opening up on Shenkursk. We can hear the thundering bombardment. As yet then the flight is undiscovered. To this extent the retreat has succeeded, but they can hardly be ignorant of it long. Pursuit will begin at any moment. On and on and on. Eight o'clock. More slowly, nine. Another village and a stop at last. Those ahead have gone to the far end of the place. When ordered to halt each man makes for the nearest house, after first feeding the hungry, patient little ponies. Each man's rations are frozen solidly of course but by setting the cans in the warmn brick ovens they thaw nicely. The peasants hospitably supply bread, a most welcome substitute for hard tack and most blessed sight of all, bring out the samovar and make hot tea. With a little exchange, one may have a very fair meal of bully beef. salmon, or beans, or M. & V. Only an hour and a half of this. At ten thirty the open road again. Dawn and the road stretehing out, white, silent
Page 103 By Dorothea York 103 and inexorable. Thud, thud, thud. Verst after verst, verst after weary verst. The chap walking at your left drops by the road, dully, without outcry. An officer comes up, pulls him to his feet, urges, threatens, curses, pleads. A canteen of rum appears from somewhere and is put to his lips. The officer puts him on his feet. He stumbles into the road and staggers on. Verst after verst. One foot after the other when it seems that each step must be the last and still on and on. The little Russian ponies, lean and exhausted, plod slowly with their heavy loads. The cold has bitten into one's very bones but all sensation is swallowed up in the one great aching misery of weariness. Canteens of rum pass from hand to hand. Men who never drank before or since gladly take the biting liquid during that awful night and day. Still on. There is little talking now, a request for rum, a curse or two. Perhaps it's the rum but one's mind wanders strangely. Picture after picture, mostly of home, flits through tired brains. Never was life sweeter now that it seems played out; never did we long more for the commonplace routine of home. But it's so hard to stand, and sleep drags at one's eyelids. The dull ache of Curly's loss returns. If only he were here to find a laugh in all this misery. Could even Curly have joked tonight? The captain gone too. It wouldn't be so bad to die. Just to drop asleep like Curly and never march again. More men speak to the chap next and drop to the road only to be found by some cursing, praying, pleading, threatening officer or sergeant. Faces drawn with suffering and cold; bodies limp with exhaustion; boys lie in the snow of the roadside and beg to be left there to die. Some one a shade more hardy or a shade less weary drags him to his feet and shakes him back to life, scolds with the bite raw nerves can give, commands, wheedles. He must go on. God knows there are no sleighs to take him. Must he be carried? Curse the British stupidity that left those sleighs behind. The rum again, somebody. He's fainted. And so somehow he stumbles on-because he must. Verst after verst, verst after weary verst. One foot before the other, staggering, reeling on, on, on, unshaven,
Page 104 104 The Romance of Company "A" grey, drawn young faces in the semi-light of day, sagging shoulders, some stripped to the shirt, stumbling, sometimes bleeding feet, dragging on. The day wanes and grows grayer. God! Will it ever end? To die like this-and for nothing. Only to stop once. On, on. Verst after verst. Noon is past and two hours more drag by. Another. Three o'clock. Another town comes in sight. Some one says it's Shagovari and then-unutterable thankfulness-a stop. We are told that "D" Company is holding this town and their guards are reinforced by men from our ranks. Those who can, sink down anywhere, a few weeping silently from sheer weariness. As darkness falls there is the sound of machine guns. "C" and "D" are holding off the vanguard of the pursuit, a force of some two hundred men-in sleighs of course. The civilian refugees, thousands of them, pour past and trudge on toward Archangel into the darkness. There are a few "Y" men here and they give out hot chocolate. No food could be better and the men fall upon it greedily. And then, being billeted hastily, they drop where they stand and, dropping, sleep in complete and utter exhaustion. In one house the upper floor is cold and they lie -thick upon the lower floor as men can lie (the town of Shagovari is not large, and three companies, not to mention the Canadians and some others, filled it to overflowing). A late comer finds room on top of a crate of chickens-how chickens came there matters not. Curling about a coat thrown over the top he too sleeps solidly. From Ust Padenga to Shenkursk is thirty versts; from Shenkursk to Shagovari is forty versts. Seventy versts in fifty hours-and the end was not yet. That it was accomplished at all was a miracle but that it was done on nerve not muscle is the explanation. And there they lay with every misery of human kind upon them, hunger, cold, dirt and vermin; in the most critical danger, alone in a tiny village in the white vastness of Russia, all but surrounded by the enemy who was even
Page 105 By Dorothea York 105 now attacking-but for the time they slept, oblivious to it all. The seventh day was ended. And at Archangel about this time the military population was going out to tea. Serges pressed to a nicety, Sam Brownes polished, boots showing no speck of dust, turned out by batmen or valets, point device, perfectly groomed, shining, glistening, polished, pressed, aye scented and powdered for all we know, Archangel officers were going out to tea. Stepping carefully along the streets, saluting gay Russian ladies, waving a hand to brother officers and civilian friends, the Archangel officer, unhealthy product of strange unhealthy times, walks his haughty indifferent way. He passes his club, saluting a tipsy friend in the window and carefully avoiding the pile of whisky crates at the side entrance. He has had luncheon out, he is on his way to tea, he is engaged to a Russian countess for a dance and supper party in the evening. Ah, yes, Archangel blooms again-a parasitic bloom.. And like gay flitting butterflies that gather round a fallen bird or beast, they too live by the death of others greater than themselves, nor scorn to feed upon them. Archangel's military is on its way to tea but we need not disturb the elegant company. The air is cleaner and freer farther south. SHAGOVARI. In the billet already referred to, the first thing that dawned upon the consciousness of the sleeping men the next morning (January 26th, 1919) was the vague idea that somewhere a cock was crowing. It was a rooster in the chicken box aforementioned who was indignantly repressed at intervals by an unseen hand, firm but kind in its methods. The resulting
Page 106 106 The Romance of Company "A" 106 The Romance of Company "A" From POET'S DUGOUT OF THE "AMERICAN SENTINEL." When you're warm, safe from Arctic snowstorm, In that haven of refuge called bed, And you're dreaming of mother, and sweetheart, and home, With the blankets pulled over your head. The depth of despair, of anger and care Is quite beyond belief, That the Corporal brings, when he shakes you up with, "Fall out for the second relief." With moans and with groans, and an ache in your bones You crawl into your boots and your clothes; Then with gun on your arm, you are walking your post, And the snow shrieks under your toes. For comrades sleeping, a watch you are keeping, Awake for a ruse or a snare, Be on the alert, for death is a flirt, And may be lurking there. The Northern Lights glisten, as you strive to listen, For signs of Bolshevik foes; The North Wind whistles, you shudder and shiver, Your feet-they must be froze. In snow to your knees, you peer through the treesHow can those bushes crawl? But it's only your nerves: and that startling crash Was but a dead limb's fall. So it's back and forth, and here in the North, Each minute seems a score, As you pace and pace, and pace and pace On your watch from two to four. And your footsteps lag, as the hours drag, And Boreas is chief, Then, "Halt! Who goes there?" springs from your lipsThank God! It's the third relief. Then you trudge to your base, trying to dope the queer pace Of time on the Russian shore. Siechas is Zavtra: if ever, and zavtra is never; Those last two hours were four. But the strangest translation that came to your station Of a term you thought meant soon, Is that "the earliest possible moment" here Has been given as "Sometime in June." O. E. WEILHAMER, Hq. Co. 339th Inf.
Page 107 By Dorothea York 107 sounds were odd-a crow or two by the rooster, which was choked by the hand, a short silence while the bird resumed his dignity, then another crow, another repression and repeat. That day was spent in resting as much as possible (it was a Sunday by the way) while our rear guard fought off the enemy as it had during the night. Late in the afternoon "C" Company fired the village that it might not billet the enemy's troops and at 5:30, still very weary but able to stand and march, the entire detachment moved on again. Sixteen grinding versts were covered and at one a. m. the following morning (January 27th) we came into Malo Vistovka. The Seventy-five Mile Retreat was completed and passed into history. VTISTOVKA-A STAND. In the midst of all this dreary tragedy it is a relief to remember an amusing little incident that occurred during this day. It goes to prove that veterans or not, boys are still mainly boys, even while they're engaged in being heroes. It happened in this way: A sleigh had come into the village carrying a wonderful cargo of cigarettes, jam, biscuits and a packing case of English toffee. It stopped in the midst of the village street and as the sleigh was needed in a hurry, was hastily unloaded right there and a guard placed over the stores. Sgt. Sturr saw it first (he always had a good eye for food) and advanced upon the toffee. The little raid was completely successful and he retired with the whole box under one arm. Sgt. Galloway across the street was the next. He likewise wandered out and accosted the guard.. "Guard, what are these doing here?" The guard explained. "No place for them here," said the Supply Sergeant sternly and also retired in good order with cigarettes under one arm and jam and biscuits under the other. The jam was only a poor combination of ginger and rhubarb but in Russia jam is-well jam. The troops en nmasse poured out then and in five minutes there wasn't so much as a lonely biscuit left to tell the tale. In spite of wholesale distribution of his loot, Sturr came in for considerable lifted eyebrows and comment.
Page 108 108 The Romance of Company "A" "The third platoon," said they, "never suffers. Their sergeant sees to that." Which after all isn't such very damaging evidence against a sergeant. Later in the day, the troops moved back into the villlage of Vistovka proper, about one verst from Malo Vistovka, and there took up a position and awaited the pursuit. That day and the next were spent fortifying the town, standing guard and patrolling.. It may readily be imagined that this was accomplished with great discomfort, for besides the intense cold and far from comfortable barracks, there had been no chance as yet to recover from the exhaustion of the long march, enough sleep was impossible, the commissary was disorganized and there was little to replace the clothing and equipment thrown away during the retreat. In one sense it had not been a retreat. It was the imperative flight of hunted things and though not one man had been lost, each man had what he stood in and that was practically all. The enemy was expected to attack at any time and on the twenty-eighth he did bring on a little skirmish. A combat patrol attacked at about half past eight but fell back when the Canadian artillery opened on them. Corp. Leonard Knight was wounded, our only casualty. The same night Lt. Collar with forty men and two machine guns patrolled south on the Shagovari road. They returned late in the evening, having located machine gun emplacements. The next morning, January 29th, the roll of big guns began and the bombardment continued all day. At seven a. m. the men were called out and already nearly every billet was hit, one burned to the ground. During the shelling, the guard' in a log house at the far front heard a sudden explosion behind them. There was instant consternation for it seemed as though they were again surrounded. Investigation revealed, however, that an unopened M. & V. can behind Pvt. Shetterly had been struck and in consequence had exploded with a loud report. This was the "firing in the rear," and in the twinkling of an eye a possible tragedy had become a certain comedy and was thoroughly enjoyed. Shortly before noon Lt. McPhail patrolled with one platoon
Page 109 By Dorothea York 109 south on the Shagovari road. They encountered an enemy patrol five versts from Vistovka and there was an exchange of fire but our patrol returned about four in the afternoon without casualties. From this time on patrols were kept out along this road all through the night. These later patrols each spent but thirty to forty-five minutes out, when they were relieved by another. By this arrangement men were coming and going constantly. Owing to this circumstance toward midnight a rather odd thing happened. Vistovka was not exactly "well fortified" but besides its barracks of pine logs and branches and a machine gun nest or so, it had a number of the so-called "Jack knife drops" (which is a combination of poles and barbed wire constructed in sections which may later be wired into a continuous barricade). At the road at the southern end of town two sections came together but were not joined. This was to permit passage back and forth by swinging back one side like a gate. Here a guard was placed. At about eleven o'clock this night, of the twenty-ninth. Corp. Knox relieved the guard here and was told that a patrol had gone out which would soon return and that it was not to be halted. Knox had not been there long when he heard men approaching and one wearing an American coat walked up to the wire, pulled back the loose section and stepped inside. All this was to be expected. The night was black and neither our guard nor the approaching man could see very much, but Knox was especially well hidden as he stood in the shadow of a post with some loose dirt that had been thrown out covering the snow just behind him. The man on foot was followed by another mounted on a black horse. This was not at all what was to be expected and Knox realized that this was no patrol of ours. And then things happened swiftly. At this moment the chap on foot saw Knox, leveled his gun and ran at him. Now there was no shell in the American's rifle. This was in accordance with strict orders for men on guard. As a rule, there was plenty of time to slip in a shell if anyone approached, but at this critical moment the
Page 110 110 The Romance of Company "A" COMPANY "A" SONG. (As Revised by the Medics) We are the boys of the Allied Forces There is a mystery about, You'll find us sitting up at night To try and figure it out. Some people try to tell us What this thing here is about; But when they get through talking, Why there always is a doubt. Chorus. While we are fighting And the bullets begin to R-A-I-N, You'll hear us shouting, I'll bet that bunch will never come back again. They try to rush our blockhouses Amid the ice and snow, But our machine guns gave them Hell, And you ought to see them go. We gave them all they're asking for And we guess a little more, But when they ran back in the woods, The Canucks began to score. Chorus. While we are fighting, etc. We've learned a bit of Russian Since we have been up here, "Spa-see-ba," that means "Thank you," and "pe-vo," that means "beer." "Wash-is," the name for "cootie," That makes you scratch at night, And when you sit down to a meal, They say that is "koo-shite." Chorus. Lad-na Nos-drov-e-aCock-ve po sha-vi-et-za, dob-ra Dob-ra, dob-ra, dob-ra, Dras-kee, pa-roo-skee Is-ni-e, skol-ka roub-ly, har-a-shaw. Tom and Sam McClintock, 337th Amb. Henry Landroward, "F" Batt. 229th Med. Det.
Page 111 By Dorothea York 111 order seemed unfortunate to say the least. With the mental reflection that it was one or the other of them, Knox cocked his empty gun with a click and rushed in to meet the oncoming Bolo. Panic seized both the intruders and they turned and fled. Knox lay flat, anticipating the rain of bullets which followed and shouting meanwhile to rouse the garrison and start the machine gunners, who were only twenty feet to his right, by calling the probable distance and position of the enemy. The enemy's machine gun flared, our men came out and formed a skirmish line, our guns answered for a time and there the skirmish ended. As for the patrol, it turned up after a while, having completely missed the enemy who crept in close to the town under shelter of the woods which lined the road. It was another narrow escape. A minute's difference in the prompt action of the guard would have meant more men inside the barricade. If they had come on supported by the numbers they had outside, we could scarcely have opposed them. Very early the next morning, January thirtieth, the men were again called out and had to stand by from 3:30 until daylight. There was no attack made until afternoon, although shelling went on from before noon until 6:30 p. m. About half after three their infantry came up but was again repulsed by the Canadian artillery and our machine gun fire. Arnold Lindeman and Frank Shatkowski were wounded in the skirmish. Two diaries comment thankfully here upon a quiet night. The following morning, January thirty-first, the relief came at last and the Royal Scots Infantry took over Vistovka while the battered young American veterans jogged north, back up the road to Kitsa and the rear. It was only six versts and they reached billets at six p.m. For eighty miles three hundred and fifty men had held off between five and six thousand. The coming rest was well earned.
Page 112 112 The Romance of Company "A" KITSA —THE NEW FRONT. The next day was Saturday, February 1st, and it was necessary to begin at once to reorganize the company, bring order out of chaos and form a battle front. "A" Company was again divided, this time into three parts, and two detachments took up positions in the neighboring villages. At half past seven in the evening the third platoon under Lt. Collar left Kitsa and striking through the woods and crossing the Vaga reached Maximovskaya about an hour later. The two villages are only about two versts apart. Here they relieved a detachment of Russian infantry. The first platoon under Lt. Mead left Kitsa at midnight and going north crossed the river into Ignotovskaya about 1:00 a. m., where they relieved another detachment of Russians. Ignotovskaya is also very near Kitsa — about two versts. The rest of the company, the second and fourth platoons, remained at Kitsa, our Headquarters. This was the position at the beginning of February, but during the month there was such a multitude of unimportant troop movements that we have not thought it necessary to record them all, and have contented ourselves with general statements up to the first of March when the new offensive began. A PAUSE IN HOSTILITIES. KITSA —TsT VAGA. February was a very quiet month for Company "A" but busy, especially during the first half. Detachments were constantly moved about from outpost to outpost, being relieved and returned to their rear for a few hours. This state of things gave little chance for complete recuperation but allowed the men to catch their breath, so to speak, before the re-opening of the campaign early in March. There was a great deal to be done in the way of building fortifications and bringing up guns
Page 113 By Dorothea York: 113 and supplies besides the usual duties of garrison and outpost. A glance at the map will show the towns where these routine operations were carried on. Maximovskaya, Kitsa, Yevievskaya, Federovskaya, Lekovskaya, Chamova, Ust Vaga, Navolok and Shadrova are all mentioned in the company records of this period. In spite of the scarcity of actual warfare, February was not without events of interest. After the horrors of January the small comforts that were procurable again were doubly appreciated. Clothing and supplies were issued immediately to take the place of those lost in action at the time of the great retreat. During the early part of the month the diary of the supply sergeant (Galloway) records a series of flying trips from village to village to accomplish this necessary work. It may be mentioned in passing that even on this commonplace errand which might seem dull enough, they traveled the wild trail with rifles in hand expecting an attack at any moment, either from passing peasants or from the enemy in the woods that lined the road. Yes, clean new clothing now and-oh, but this was a wonderful period-a whole detachment under McPhail even enjoyed the wild luxury of baths all around. And as for food-ah, Kitsa and Yevievskaya, what glorious memories cluster round your very names. This whole sector had been but recently deserted by the peasant population and straying domestic animals were plentiful. Anything fresh was a seven days' wonder to our troops who had been living for months on canned and dried everything. There were sheep, cows and chickens, not to mention that Yevievskaya had great pits of fine potatoes, onions and turnips. A diary at this time records, "We butchered all the cattle and sheep and proceeded to get the wrinkles out of our stomachs. Gods, how we did eat!" In fact, many decidedly overdid it and became most awfully sick but on the whole for this little time all was well. In honor of the rich buried treasure of Yevievskaya, the town was known far and wide among the troops as "Potatoville" or more simply "Spudvill'e. ft was descriptive and
Page 114 114 The Romance of Company "A" much easier to say than the Russian title which wanders among soft vowels so confusingly that every man had a distinctly different impression of its pronunciation and consequent phonetic spelling. Besides the potatoes the escaping population had buried their valuables in hope that some day they might return to find them. Rich silks, hand woven linens, samovars of silver or copper, chests of household goods, even roubles were all hidden away. The presence of these pits was readily detected by the loose straw and upturned earth and snow. The poles set up to mark the place made them unmistakable. According to the disposition of the men and the care or negligence of the officers, these were looted or covered in again when the vegetables had been removed. Yes, for once, fresh meat and vegetables were plenty. And we have even heard that once for a few days there was fresh milk-an unattainable delicacy usually. Corp. Knox confesses to having milked a cow for a while at Kitsa and some fine tea was discovered too in a store at "Spudville". In connection with this absorbing topic, the story of the chickens must not be forgotten. It goes like tthis: On the fifth of February in the afternoon, Lt. Collar and forty-five men left Yevievskaya and marched four versts into Federovskaya. The orders were to look over the houses in the village and report how many men coulld be billeted there. Sgt. Sturr, walking into the first house, found a number of bowls of milk and some abandoned fowls. The village had been very recently deserted by the inhabitants and everything was as they had left it. The milk was still sweet and having consumed a number of bowls of it, Sturr retired, beginning to wonder if it had been poisoned, which luckily it had-not. Upon emerging from the place, the chickens were still on his mind, and with an eye to the commissary of the third platoon, he passed the word of the lucky find to another chap. The houses were seven in number, including the school house, so the inspec tion was soon completed and the men drawn up for the return. The word had indeed been passed; each man solemnly held a rifle in one hand and a protesting hen in the other. Lt. Collar glanced over the aviary.
Page 115 By Dorothea York 115 "Sgt. Sturr." "Yes, sir." "When we reach billets you will give me a list of names of men having chickens including"-the lieutenant glanced at Sturr who had captured no less than three birds who were fighting for quarters in a bag-"including sergeants," said the lieutenant, and the detachment left the village. And we won't vouch for this, but we've heard that the next day there was a high feast at "Spudville" with chicken, mashed potatoes, 'n'everything, and that a certain lieutenant holding a commission in the great American army didn't have so much as a wing. That's army gossip, believe it if you like. They say, too, that this story of the chickens is really thrown in the shade by another one that relates a similar occurrence at Yevievskaya when each man turned up smiling with a cow, but we've never heard the details. Another event 'of great interest to the troops occurred at this time, the appearance of fresh bread on the bill of fare, instead of the stony hardtack. Rye flour was found in Kitsa, and the seventh of February, on a Friday, the supply sergeant (who had turned cook temporarily, ithere being no army cook available at the time), tried a batch of bread and biscuits, the first of several bakings. The yeast was begged of a peasant woman and the other ingredients presumably put in by guess as it was a first attempt. A brick oven of the type employed by our great-grandmothers and still in use throughout these Russian villages, was the only available means of baking. This was by the way a great inconvenience to the cooks, whose utensils were all of the wrong size to fit the ovens. Utensils for baking had to be made from the bottom of old tins that had contained rations and a miserable job it was. But this is an interruption. The fire was built in the oven itself and later the coals raked out, leaving the bricks hot. One loaf was put in first to try the heat and it promptly rose like a Spad and turned perfectly black. This seemed to be a hint that the bricks were too hot and after waiting a bit the rest of the baking, both bread
Page 116 /~Vol ka 0 UU, C T ~~LLJA
Page 117 By DorothLea York 117 and biscuits was put in and turned out later beautifully baked. Perhaps this is too much on the subject of mere food, but it is a subject near to the doughboy's heart and we cannot forego the pleasure of adding this quotation from a diary under date of February 19th: "Flapjacks, syrup, rice, bacon and coffee for breakfast. For supper we had apple pie baked by a Greek, spaghetti and tomatoes by a real Italian chef, white bread and butter and coffee. Living like kings." But to return to less peaceful and pleasing topics: There are only three small engagements with the enemy to record, occurring on the 9th, 10th and 11th of February. All of them were insignificant and happily without casualties to our forces. On the 9th a patrol of twenty-five men under Lt. Saari, wearing the white suits already mentioned (as a camouflage used by both sides in this Arctic campaign, which made the men practically invisible against a landscape of snow) encountered an enemy outpost at Lekovskaya, and having exchanged fire for a short time, retired. On the tenth at Yevievskaya an enemy patrol opened fire on our positions with machine guns and rifles from across the river. They retired under fire of our machine guns leaving a red flag and some propaganda. The next morning the enemy opened fire again from this position upon our outposts and a working party which was engaged in fortifying the town. Our machine guns again returned the fire and the enemy again retired. A few more small happenings and we may close the record of this month. There were three mails; their arrival would vary by several days in different places, but one chap dates them as the first, fourth and twenty-fifth. On the fifteenth, Company Headquarters was moved from Kitsa to Ust Vaga and "A" Company was divided between that town and Chamova. On the twenty-first Capt. Joseph Taylor took command of the company which had been under Lt. Saari since Capt. Odjard's wound had rendered him unfit for duty. It grew very cold toward the middle of February, on the 17th going down to sixty-one degrees below, and on the 19th it
Page 118 118 The Romance of Company "A" was still forty degrees or fifty degrees below. Luckily by this time most of the men were having their first rest since they had been in Russia. There was very little in the way of amusement. Mails were inFrequent and newspapers, or reading matter of any kind, were very scarce. Story-telling came to the fore again as a very valuable art. What papers they had were read and reread, passed from hand to hand, never destroyed. The parts of these papers referring to their own little man's war were devoured with especial interest, but it must be confessed that these accounts could be enjoyed by our troops only as they were regarded as interesting and very irritating fiction. Even the reports of returned men usually showed clearly that the writer had never set foot outside Archangel and was in a state of delightful ignorance as regarded conditions at the front. We can imagine in what a disgusted yet ironical humor these veterans of the wildest, most savage part of the campaign of the war must have read choice bits which assured a too trusting nation of the security and well being of her sons. These were of course interlarded with tales of horror dealing in harrowing accounts of atrocities. We have stated that this latter part of February was a period of rest. This was only partially true. The men who walked long miles beside the loaded sleighs of convoys in weather far below zero, struggling with a Russian pony to keep him in line and prevent his lagging behind (as the exasperating little beasts always will) may not agree. Those who marched weary versts from village to village on outpost duty or patrol, or escorted a heavy gun along forest trails may likewise be of a contrary opinion. And we have heard bitter comment on the "Rest at Ust Vaga" by one who, among other duties, on the twenty-third, broke trail for artillery travel from Ust Vaga to Navolok. The men ploughed a double track through deep snow to form two narrow paths for the wheels to travel on, working in two lines and taking turns for the head of each line. It was exhausting work and when the next day, the gun was carried eighteen versts in the wrong direction and turned up at Shadrova so
Page 119 By Dorothea York 119 that the trail was never used at all, the extreme disgust of the third platoon who had done the work may be imagined. About the twenty-fourth the report reached them that Sec. Baker had ordered the withdrawal of troops in North Russia "as soon as possible." This news was received with what one might call conditional rejoicing. In the main it was certainly good news but "as soon as possible" was a phrase for speculation and it was frequently quoted with irony in the days that followed. THE SHOW AT UsT VAGA. Before we enter upon a description of the March offensive which proved to include Company 'CA's" last engagements in Russia, we must pause to mention the show at Ust Vaga. February having provided a moment to breathe freely, Troutner and Sturr had laid their heads together and behold on March first a show was produced, the second since "A" Company had reached Russia. The first and second platoons were in Chamova and the third and fourth at Ust Vaga. The platform was built up of M. & V. and hard tack crates covered over with lumber and planking. The "properties" were borrowed from Russian citizens and added much merriment to the performance. The mere sight of old friends attired in the astonishing shirts and coats and baggy trousers of the Russki native was enough to start a gale of laughter from "gallery to pit." Lt.-Col. Corbley and staff attended and all in all it was a great success. The program, press notices and the song hit of the evening are reproduced on another page. But alas and alack, as had occurred after the last show at Ust Padenga, the next morning the revelers were snatched from their bunks for a move. At 6:30 a. m. the third and fourth platoons and Company Headquarters left Ust Vaga and marched twenty-five weary versts into Maximovskaya, where they relieved two platoons of King's Liverpools (British troops) The first and second platoons were likewise out o' luck that same morning and being called out in the small hours left Chamova at 1:30 a. m. (March 2nd) and travelled twenty
Page 120 120 The Romance of Company "A" THE PROGRAMME OF CO. "A" SHOW OF MARCH 1, 1919. SNOW BOUND MINSTRELS Cast Ends-Mr. Percy Coulson and Mr. James Oxley. Principal End-Mr. Max Troutner. Interlocutor-Mr. Thorley Sturr. Quartette-Ben Lewis, Thomas Rapp, Forest Laws, Harold Danielson. No. 1-Opening Chorus. No. 2-Violin Solo by Mr. George Campas. No. 3-Talking by Oxley and Sturr. No. 4-Solo by Mr. Harold Danielson. No. 5-Talking by Coulson and Sturr. No. 6-Solo by Mr. Thomas Rapp. No. 7-Introducing Mr. Max Troutner. No. 8-Buck and Wing Dancing by Mr. James Oxley. No. 9-Talking by Mr. Oxley and Mr. Sturr. No. 10-Parody singing by Mr. James Oxley. No. 11-Solo by Mr. Percy Coulson. No. 12-Chorus Medley, Icicle Quartette. No. 13-Song by Mr. Max Troutner-"Some one done me wrong." No. 14-Talking by Mr. Troutner and Mr. Sturr. No. 15-Grand Finale. It was a big success and undoubtedly was one of the biggest and best minstrel shows that has hit this country in some time. Mr. Max Troutner, known better as one of the Lowney Brothers who toured every state in the Union, made a big hit with his long line of side-bursting original jokes. He held the large audience breathless all during his stay on the platform. His long experience at this kind of work has made him a master at the "Black Face Comedian" game. His make-up was of the best. Mr. James Oxley, another one of the old-timers on the vaudeville stage, showed the boys that he could still step a little. His buck and wing dancing made one think that they were back at the "Temple." His parody entitled "Hard Luck" or "Throw no stones in the well that gives you water," made a big hit. Mr. Percy Coulson, another famous English vaudeville star, entertained with a few songs and stories. After the performance, "Bob," of the Y. M. C. A., gave a very interesting lecture on "Optimism and Pessimism." All in all, the evening's entertainment was a huge success. There was, however, one person missing whose presence would have made it a perfect evening and that was our Captain himself. We are all looking forward to his early and complete recovery and are counting upon being with him again in the very near future. American Sentinel, Mar. 22, 1919.
Page 121 By Dorothea York 121 By Dorothea York 121 HARD LUCK (Sung to the tune of "Throw No Stones in the Well that Gives You Water.") Throw no stones in the well that gives you water, It's a saying both old and true. There's a hat in the ring. Put it on if it fits you. Don't bite the hand that's feeding you. We weren't drafted to come up here in Russia, We were drafted to go to France. We weren't intended to fight the BolshevikiWhy don't you give the boys a chance? The boys from France are now returning But up here you only have a few. So for - sake, get some transports in Archangell We're tired of hard tack, bully beef and stew. James Oxley.
Page 122 122 The Romance of Company "A" versts into Ust Vaga, leaving a small detachment under Bugler Culver to guard supplies. The next evening at 7:00 p. m. they were relieved by Russian infantry and left Ust Vaga for Malo Beresnik, which they reached shortly after midnight, March fourth. A second small detachment was left at Ust Vaga under Sgt. Galloway to guard supplies. Sleighs were secured for the journey but the riding was very cold. PART V. ZERO HOUR. FIRST BATTLE OF MAXIMOVSKAYA. The third and fourth platoons had reached Maximovskaya the afternoon of March second and the very next day the first engagement at that place occurred. This was a part of the new front which was Vistovka and Maximovskaya with Kitsa as a base, and here we were to cling for days pushing back an unnumbered foe that threatened always to sweep over us. Our position at this outpost was as follows: Maximovskaya is built on a hill with the Vaga to the east and small brush covered ravines to the south and west. Here we had fortified with four block houses and two barricades placed almost all the way around the town. Our rear, which was shielded by our posts at Kitsa and Vistovka, was protected from surprise by an outpost near the church by the river, but in no other way, the fortifications not extending that far. The blockhouses were reinforced with sand bags and provided with machine guns. The barricades were simply pine logs piled up to form breastworks. The Canadian artillery supporting us was in Ienatovskaya. The enemy was occupying Yevievskaya. Our garrison, commanded by Capt. Taylor, numbered approximately one hundred and forty men. This included three
Page 123 By Dorothea York 123 platoons (our third and fourth and one from "D" Company) but at this time our numbers were greatly reduced by casualties and a platoon averaged only about forty-five men (the normal strength being around sixty lof course). The fourth platoon especially was almost non-existent, for it had been practically wiped out by the heavy casualties at Nijni Gora. At 1:00 the morning of March third, our patrol under Lt. Saari which was reconnoitering in the direction of Yevievskaya encountered an enemy outpost in about the middle of that No Man's Land which lay between the villages. The enemy opened up with machine guns and our patrol withdrew without casualties. At shortly after six our outpost opened fire on an enemy column moving east across the frozen river on the Yevievskaya-Kitsa road. By eight o'clock they had reached the Kitsa-Vistovka road and severed all communication between Kitsa and Vistovka, and Vistovka remained thus cut off for two days. The March offensive was on. At nine a. m. the Bolo artillery opened up from Yevievskaya and bombarded steadily until three in the afternoon, when there was a lull to allow their infantry to come up to our right. Their attack stopped just short of our hill. At five they tried it again but again thought it unwise to charge a hill in the face of our fire and contented themselves with lying in the ravines close up to the edge of our position. The Canadians firing over us made the ravines unpleasant territory and aided by our machine gun and rifle fire forced them to keep cover. Darkness came on with the enemy still close in around us awaiting his chance. Their numbers were estimated at between eight hundred and a thousand against our one hundred and forty. And so they ringed us round and waited like a wolf pack about a lost traveler, for a sign of weakening when they should rush in and kill. At 8:30 p. m. the Bolshevik stubbornly returned to the attack, this time from three sides-right, center and left. Again at eleven their machine guns rattled all about us from the dark ravines. Stubbornly, desperately, we fought them off again and again, and at the very edge of our position they always paused and withered beneath our fire. Finally, before midnight, they
Page 124 124 The Romance of Company "A"" fell back with heavy casualties and resumed their bombardment for two hours and a half into the morning of the fourth. Our casualties were extraordinarily light-but four wounded and one of these was from "D" Company, Lt. Mills. Everett Robb and Leo Slanchowski were hit while on outpost by the church tower and Peter Chiliwinski in the town itself. A PAUSE. And now came a breathless pause before the storm, marked by small events on our side and certain sinister preparations on the enemy's. Company "A" had now been on active duty as a rear guard on this front since early January without relief and with severe casualties, the enemy growing meanwhile stronger and bolder. Long ago they had ceased to have many fond illusions about battling for a principle. As their officers admitted, they were fighting for their lives and so they settled to it grimly and waited. They hadn't had the chance to live like civilized beings since some time in February and at Vistovka, the town where the first and second platoons were next stationed, the "cootie"' was especially rampant. All in all nerves were stretched as far as possible and a bit farther. The stage was set for the greatest battles of the winter and the last desperate stand against the Bolsheviki, and although they couldn't know it was the last and greatest attack, suspense was in the air. The fourth of March which concluded the first battle of Maximovskaya found the first and second platoons preparing to move up front. We left Malo Beresnik about mid afternoon and stopping at Kitsa for lunch marched on down to Vistovka, which we reached about 9:30 p. m., a march of about thirteen versts. Here we relieved the two platoons of "D" Company which had so recently been cut off from us by the enemy, and settled into our perilous little outpost with apprehensions as to how we'd leave it-if ever. The third and fourth platoons with "D" Company's platoon were still hanging on at Maximovskaya and wearily building fortifications against what was to come. On the sixth, "D" Company's
Page [unnumbered] 1. Advanced M. G. Post. 4. American M. G. Officers at Entrance to M. G. Dugout. 2. Entrance to a Dugout. 5. American M. G. Post in Front Line. ** 3. Engineer Making Barbed Wire Entanglemlnents. 6. Blockhouse Crew. Photographs by Courtesy of Lt. Costello.
Page 125 By Doroth2ea Yorle 125 platoon was relieved by one platoon from "F", our platoons remaining as they were. The "F" men were fresh, which was encouraging, but they had never seen action-so one never knew. On this same day the detachment at Chamova joined the little group at Ust Vaga and an enemy 'plane passed over Kitsa, Ignotovskaya, Maximovskaya and Vistovka. We opened fire without result. On the seventh the Bolsheviki opened fire on Vistovka and bombarded from 11:30 a. m. until mid afternoon. Our losses were one dead, Albert Moore; two wounded, Orin Andreas and Stephen De Graw, and two shell shocked, Ernest Kuna and Thomas Sullivan. There was no infantry movement and the cannonade seemed' intended as harassing fire only. If so it was successful. We found it very nerve-racking. More than that, it was the occasion of bitter disappointment for their shells had burned our headquarters where the precious mail lay awaiting distribution. It had traveled seven thousand miles for that. Under the circumstances the tragedy of those lost letters beggars description. It can only be imagined by those who know what it is to live from mail to mail. At Maximovskaya they were not molested as yet. There were two important combat patrols, one under Lt. Steele (of "F' Company) and one under Sgt. Sturr. Each returned with valuable information. On the eighth, the ominous calm was quite unbroken. The enemy made no sign. In the evening the Vistovka garrison was reinforced by a detachment of "F" Company. And then on March ninth the storm broke and the two villages were attacked simultaneously, at Vistovka after a terrific cannonade; at Maximovskaya without artillery preparation. SECOND BATTLE OF MAXIMOVSKAYA. Our position and defences at Maximovskaya have already been described so it will be unnecessary to go into that again. Oddly enough the first move of the battle was our own. On the morning of March ninth one of our 'planes traveled over
Page 126 126 The Romance of Company "A" the Maximovskaya area and in flying very low to observe the ravines so often mentioned that lay on the west of the town, unexpectedly drew enemy fire. This was a blunder on their part for our aeroplane flew back unharmed, while their position, hitherto unsuspected, was revealed to us. At three in the afternoon their infantry attacked on our left flank with the usual small fire and one pom por, and at four thirty they tried it again. Their pom por cost us two casualties before the Canadians found and silenced it with their faithful eighteen pounders. These attacks had doubtless been intended to hold our attention and concentrate our defences on this side, while they launched their main effort against our right with troops concealed among the bush-lined streams. After eight o'clock under cover of night this greater attack came up on our right flank, and, circling the village on the north, fired upon us from our rear. Again they had us surrounded and cut off from all assistance for another horrible night. Heaven knows Vistovka had none to give anyway. Their position was even more precarious. Again the enemy's numbers were overwhelming and we stood alone fighting stubbornly, determined that at least they should pay well for our massacre, if that must come. For we believed again that we were done. Their troops were so near that from our blockhouse we could hear them speak and catch their meaning. The officers urged them to charge the slope and end the affair, but the men protested that they were cold and hungry and had no mind to brave that devastating small fire at closer range. The Canadians were dropping shells among them which silenced the firing in our rear and there was a continuous rattling of machine guns and flash of rifles from our defenses. And so, grimly we had fought them off again and at last they returned to the attack ito longer, but fell back beaten before a little marooned group of desperate men, haggard, weary and unnerved who had fought them one man to six-and again had conquered. Our only casualties were from the pom pom which had
Page 127 By Dorlothea York 127 reached the exposed outpost by the church, killing one, Dausie Trammell, and wounding Salathiel Lightner slightly. BATTLE OF VISTOVKA. Meanwhile on that same ninth of March the battle raged no less fiercely about Vistovka-but before we enter upon the battle itself a description of the position seems advisable. We have already mentioned that the first and second platoons were holding Vistovka at this time. They had relieved two platoons of "D" Company on the fourth of March, had gone through the shelling on the seventh, already mentioned, and by the ninth were well nigh exhausted by the perils and privations of these five days. The whole new front was untenable anyway butthey were holding. There were between two and three thousand of the enemy and we had two platoons and a few Cossacks. Due to their numbers we were almost surrounded at all times and occasionally cut off from communication with the rear completely. Our artillery was at Malo Vistovka, about one verst back of us, and consisted of three guns, two of the usual eighteen-pounders and one four point five. The enemy had, we estimated, between ten and fourteen guns, all of them four point fives at least, and a few six-inch guns. Although we were well inured to the disadvantages of being always outranged and greatly outnumbered, all the engagements before seemed to offer no parallel to this ridiculously, pitifully unequal battle. Our fortifications, if one could call them that, were of the usual type here, a low pine barricade, wire, a few blockhouses, five dugouts. The dugouts were placed almost regularly one at each side of the road at either end of the village and one at the right rear lay well out on the edge of the river at some distance from the houses of the town. On the day of the great battle the Russians under Capt. Kreetch occupied the dugouts on the left front (No. 1), the right front dugout (No. 2) was held by the second platoon under Lt. McPhail and the rear dugouts by the first platoon. Lt. Mead, who was of course in command of both platoons, was with this last named group,
Page 128 128 The Romance of Company "A" but each dugout became so isolated during the day that for hours there was no communication and therefore no concerted action.. The situation being as it was, it was our habit during the day to remain underground in these dugouts both to escape annihilation and to keep what secrets we still had of numbers and the position of our defenses. We did not expose ourselves by day or show smbke lest it should draw the enemy's fire, and the long weary days passed without food or water until darkness came, and in the kitchen (which was a house in the town) Cooks Stone and Swadener built a fire and brought up hot tea and the eternal bully beef and hard tack to the front. This was the condition of men and defenses when at eight a. m., March ninth, the enemy artillery opened up its terrific bombardment that neither stayed nor slacked in fury all that day. Never before had we seen such concentrated, raking, thundering fire. The Canadians said later that for sheer violence in a given area, Vimy Ridge itself was not equal to it. Not an inch of the soil seemed untouched and untorn by its fury and the booming roar of it beat upon our ears for unending hours. Early in the day incendiary shells reduced most of the buildings to groups of leaping flames and so rent and riddled were they by the rain of shells that the men crept from one to the other seeking shelter and finding each more shell-torn and untenable than the last-and yet forced to stay in one of them. Time passed slowly. There was no pretense on our part of keeping up rifle fire, for it was useless. We could see the hordes of the enemy everywhere. To pick off a possible fifty or one hundred would draw their own small fire and not diminish their numbers appreciably. A record of the battle of Vistovka consists largely of a swelling list of casualties, of holding desperately, of taking what came as stoically as might be, and of waiting for the order to retire that did not come. There was little else that could be done, and owing to the isolation of each dugout from the others, the men's vague ideas of time, the constant change of position on the right flank in search of adequate shelter, and the general confusion of a great bombardment, it is very difficult to gain any clear idea of the
Page 129 By Dorothea York 129 events of the engagement-well nigh impossible to obtain any conception of the sequence of events. In fact, concerning four of the wounded, we have, most unfortunately, no information at all as to time or place. These were Pvts. Ivan Gibbs, Theodore Hilaride, John Jaskulski and Joseph Stepka. Of the other casualties the little information we have gathered follows here. There were in all eleven wounded, two killed in action and two died of wounds. Sgt. Johnson was slightly wounded while fighting behind our barricade; Pvt. Sweet was killed by a shell that wrecked our blockhouse by the river; a second shell that finished the bomb-proof shelter wounded Arthur McAlpine and Andrew Goodz; a third hit the kitchen, wounding Cook Stone, and a fourth struck No. 3 dugout by the church with still greater destruction. Walter Welstead was killed at once; Cpl. Kenny and Pvt. Rose received mortal injuries, and Arthur Ingersoll and Peter Keshick were severely wounded. Pvt. Keshick was found crawling back on hands and knees by Pts. Smith and Van Steenburg and was carried by them to the bridge at the rear, where wounds were hastily bound up without the protection of the flimsiest form of shelter, but in the bitter cold of outdoors. Lt. Mead was struck across the chest during a return to the bomb-proof shelter and was carried back to the hospital at once by sleigh. This left Lt. McPhail in command of "A" Company's platoon (although he was of course ranked by Capt. Ramsay, who was commanding the detachment of "F" Company already mentioned). At some time during the day, a building which held stores was struck and burst into flame. Sgt. Yarger and Cook Swadener entered immediately and removing the ammunition, placed it in the center of the road-needless to state in peril of their lives every moment, although luckily there was no explosion. For this action Cook Swadener was cited, but oddly enough we find no official notice of the fact that Sgt. Yarger was also very much present. It was Swadener himself who drew our attention to the omission. Once some of the Russians lost courage and tried to desert us, but were driven back by Lt. Burns. About three o'clock the enemy brought up in
Page 130 130 The Romance of Company "A" fantry on our right flank. We estimated their numbers as around four hundred men. About fifteen of us formed a skirmish line behind the blockhouses but they fell back with heavy casualties before our machine gun and artillery (Canadian Field Artillery) fire. Meanwhile the position of the twenty men in the front (No. 2) dugout seemed abandoned indeed. It appeared quite possible that the first platoon behind them had withdrawn and left them to fight their own battle as best they might. Time wore on and there was no sign from the rear. The men drew aside and resolved upon an appeal to Lt. McPhail. Two or three approached him and presented their case and their request. They were useless where they were and perhaps abandoned. Would it not be permissible to wait no longer for a command that might never come and to withdraw without it But Lt. McPhail was firm. Without orders they could not return. If those orders should never come they would await them there till Judgment Day. And so they returned to wait the end-to wait until that vast army they could see should advance and wipe them out. The captain's "Fighting Tigers" were cornered indeed and brought to bay, but snarling still and dangerous. Those long hours of waiting for the end at Maximovskaya and Vistovka-who can ever understand that was not there, and who that lay in the blockhouses and dugouts of the front that day and night while he fought the depression of his physical cravings and the fears he would have been a fool not to have known, who that felt the earth seem to rock and reel and shiver under the thunderous rain of shell-will ever forget, can ever forget while memory holds and life survives? And at last to the second platoon came the order that they waited. About three o'clock-when at Maximovskaya the Bolo was storming the hill with infantry and Vistovka's own right flank was under attack-a runner came through the terrific barrage. It was Abraham Smith who was later cited for this action. He arrived unhurt, told them of Lt. Mead's departure
Page 131 By Dorothea Yorke 131 and warned them of an approaching retreat. They were to fall back to the rear of the village and meet the first platoon there, at a bridge where the ground fell away to lower ground and gave the place comparative safety. * The plan was to leave the dugout one by one and, on reaching the surface, to crawl back the entire distance behind the slight concealment of the low barricade. But there was no such slow process as crawling employed. When the first man appeared at the exit from the dugout the Bolo machine guns rattled from every direction, and by the sound they were placed very close together. There was nothing to do but run for it, and, so doing, the whole body attained the shelter of the buildings on the left flank, and, keeping at a distance, as they still burned fiercely, hastened toward the rear. Miraculously the whole movement was accomplished without a single casualty. When they reached the other dugout on this flank, they were begged to stop and extricate Corp. Kenney and Pvt. Rose who were held there pinioned by the beams of their dugout which had fallen across their legs when the shell wrecked their position. The second platoon hurried on, calling back that they would return for them. Lt. McPhail paused and exerted his utmost strength in an attempt to remove Corp. Kenney, but failed and retired with the rest. The first platoon, who had already fallen back to the bridge, covered this retreat with a steady fire of rifles and the machine guns operated by Shipler and Krajewski and here stemmed the tide. As soon as our men were out of sight the enemy machine guns ceased to bark, and, as the darkness of late afternoon came down, Woods and Yates crept up the incline and brought the wounded men back with them to safety. It was clear to all who saw them that neither man had long to live. Rose, who was well nigh done for then but still undaunted, called encour*Since the above paragraph was written we have been told that Pvt. Smith was the last of three runners who had been sent to the front line dugout-all of whom arrived safely. The fact is interesting but we lack any explanation of it or any clue to the identity of the first two.
Page 132 132 The Romance of Company "A" agement to the rest, "Stick with them, boys. They haven't got us licked yet!" The gallant young corporal was soon past all speech. He died at Beresnik hospital three days later on the twelfth. Bernard Kenny was even more desperately injured and lived but a few hours. He went West at the front with us that night. The withdrawal of our men had left Capt. Kreetch and his Cossacks at the mercy of the enemy should he send in the infantry that we had expected momentarily all day. The Cossack captain, gallant officer that he was, ran the gauntlet of fire to the rear alone and there begged with tears in his eyes for some officer to give him orders to remove his men from that death-trap, the front line dugout. The order was given and he hastened back and brought them out, having himself braved the bombardment three times to accomplish his mission. And now, when all had been accomplished so suocessfully, Lieut. McPhail was informed that the order to retire was a mistake and that the men must return to the shell-raked desolation that was now Vistovka. A detachment from "F" Company, which at dusk had come in from Malo-Vistovka to relieve us, was to take over what remained of our position. The right front dugout alone remained possible of occupation as one side only had been burst in by a shell. The other three were wrecked utterly. The position of this dugout was unknown to "F" men and some of our chaps must go back to guide them to it. Lt. McPhail called for three volunteers and, in spite of the men's exhaustion, got them promptly. Pvt. Gassman, who from choice had been standing as lookout at the very front all day, was the first and he was followed quickly by Lindberg and Gibbs. These three, with the "F" men under Capt. Ramsay, crept into Vistovka and held there until one a. m. the next morning when we evacuated the town for good and all. On this second return Pvt. Gibbs was wounded. Why in all that time the enemy infantry had failed to sweep over our insignificant outpost and exterminate it is one of the many miracles of its kind that occurred in the life of Company "A". Perhaps the real explanation lay in the innate
Page 133 By- Dorothea York 133 cowardice of the enemy and the added terror that, by their own confession, they always felt in attacking American or Canadian troops. The first and second platoons reached Kitsa at four o'clock the morning of the tenth, and, awaiting the coming of daylight there, marched on to Malo Beresnik, arriving at nine a. m. Here they remained under command of Lt. McPhail, building fortifications and going through the usual routine of garrison and guard duties until the fourteenth, when they left Malo Beresnik and came at five twenty p. m. into Ust Vaga and rest at last, about thirty versts from Vistovka. The gripping peril in which every man stood in these days is in every line of the little extract which follows. It is not taken from a diary proper. The one which belonged to this man contains no entry between March first and fourteenth. It is written in ULst Vaga probably in haste, on three small sheets torn from a note book which, by its Russian characters at the headings and numerous ruled lines, gives it the look of a book intended for personal accounts. It is dated March twelfththough it sounds as though it might be a day or two earlierand reads as follows: "During the last week there has been quite a lot of fighting and some very critical moments were felt. The village of Vistofka was taken by the Bolos and retaken by Lieut. McPhaiL Then "F" Company lost it and again retook it. Our third and fourth over at Maxamifskia were entirely surrounded by:Bolos but drove them off. Our infantry is very much superior to theirs but this is offset by the greater number and range of the enemy's guns and in the amount of ammunition. The Bolo can place his shots wherever he pleases and so demolished every billet in Vistofka, Malla Vistofka and nearly all in Maxamifskia. The fighting was very fierce but we held them off. We had thirty casualties but the Bolos lay in great numbers all about the ravines. But still it is doubtful if we can much longer hold out and there is no relief in sight. Yesterday a convoy of some three hundred sleighs brought away most of the provisions in case we should lose out. More sleighs have
Page 134 134 The Romance of Company "A" just come in today-about the same number. Refugees have been streaming by for the last three days." PART VI.-THE FINISH. KITSA AND THE REAR. On March eleventh, 1919, the relief came in the shape of a company of King's Liverpools. The third and fourth platoons and Company Headquarters left Maximovskava and marched back into Kitsa, reaching billets at ten thirty p. m. "F" Company's position seemed very precarious. Upon arrival in the town we were told that the five "A" Company men killed in the recent battles had been interred here in Kitsa. We were moved again so soon that no one had the opportunity of verifying the report by identifying the graves. Accord. ing to the best available information on the subject, our five dead had been buried in the churchyard at Kitsa in one grave with two Englishmen and two Russians. The funeral must have been held on the tenth or eleventh of March. An English chaplain officiated. For these few details we are indebted to the Y. M. C. A. secretary, Ralph Albertson, who was present at the interment. The men here buried were Cpls. Bernard Kenny and Albert Moore, and Pvts. Earl Sweet, Dausie Trammell and Walter Welstead.* * NOTE-To our regret we have been unable to gain any substantiation of our facts concerning this funeral. The "A" Company men themselves were all at the front and inquiry in other sources (notably Ralph Albertson above mentioned) elicited all the few facts we have given. Mr. Albertson can recall a -funeral of five Americans, but, due to the loss of his diary, cannot be certain of the names of the men buried. A letter to the Cemeterial Division of the Quartermaster Corps at Washington brought only the mis-information that the burial places were two, Vistovka and Maximovskaya, an error on the face of it due to the confusion with the battles in which the men were killed. However, the Company records give Kitsa as the place of burial in each case and this in conjunction with Mf. Albertson's remembrance of five Americans buried "about the eleventh of March," leaves little doubt that our facts are accurate enough though few and unverified. As soon as conditions in Russia permit investigation, the Washington records will be corrected, we are told.
Page [unnumbered] 1. Peasant Women Washing Clothes Through the Ice. 4 American Doughboys in Front Line. Of Ia.Osh" 2. A Wedding Party. Marriage of a Doughboy and a Russian Girl. 5. An Advanced Post. Doughboy Shaving. 3. Russian Sailors Drilling. 6. A Parley in No Man's LandAmericans and Bolsheviki. Photographs by Courtesy of Lt. Costello.
Page 135 By Dorothea York 135 On March twelfth there was inspection by a number of British officers, who questioned the men as to general conditions. After what these troops had gone through, one can imagine the answers the officers received. Of two hundred and sixty-four men at Ust Padenga there were now one hundred and forty-eight. These were exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually. They had been standing, rifle in hand, without so much as removing their boots, for the last week; they had a host of haunting memories from those last days; their nerves were worn raw. If information were required, they could speak fluently and bitterly. It was a very different in spection from that one back in December that found a full ranked, fit and cheerful company. So much had happened between December twenty-seventh, 1918, and March twelfth, 1919.' Company "A" was neither beaten nor mutinous but utterly weary and unstrung. On March thirteenth we moved on again, crossed the river to Ignotovskaya, arriving about noon, and spent the afternoon and evening there. It was originally intended to leave before midnight, but upon Sgt. McCloskey's remarking in jest to Capt. Taylor that it would be unlucky to move on the thirteenth, the captain allowed the men a little more rest, ordered a lunch of hard tack, tea and jam served out, and we did not leave the town until two a. m. of the fourteenth. A short stop was made at Malo Beresnik and then on to UJst Vaga, which we reached at noon. At this place we rejoined Sgt. Galloway's little detachment and also the first and second platoons, who had arrived earlier in the morning from Malo Beresnik. We rested here just one hour, and then the entire company with its supplies and equipment left Ust Vaga, and at half past six that night dragged themselves into Beresnik, completing a march of thirty-eight versts (to be aecurate about six versts less for the first and second). We were billeted the first night in the new Y. M. C. A. building and had supper there while a movie thriller was screened. March fifteenth the first and second platoons and Company Headquarters took up their abode down by the river in an old log barn which had been used formerly as a morgue. It was
Page 136 136 The Romance of Company "A" Hq. 1st Bn. 339th Inf., Ust Vaga, Russia, 9 April, 1919. Memo. to all American Units. The following telegram from Archangel, Russia, April 8, 1919. To: Lt. Col. J. B. Corbley, Ust Vaga, Russia. H. Q. U. S. Troops, Archangel, Russia, April 8, 1919. General Orders, No. 15. It is officially announced that American Units will be withdrawn as soon as they can be properly relieved in the spring. It is the ambition of the C. O. that every member of this expedition leave for home with an unsullied reputation. With this object in view it is desired every officer and soldier continue to perform the duties of a soldier to the best of his ability wherever this may lead him until his services can be dispensed with. The difficult task of the Allied Army throughout the past winter in Northern Russia has apparently been well advertised throughout the United States, and the hardships of service under Arctic conditions is well recognized and although Michigan is anxious to see her soldiers back home they must return honorably or not at all. It could never be forgotten for an instant the reputation an American makes for himself in the service of his country will follow him throughout life and it is desired that this fact be impressed on every officer and soldier of the command. (Signed) Stewart, By Order of Lt. Col. Corbly. W. E. Warn, 1st Lt. 339th Inf. Adjutant. FROM PERSHING TO A. N. R. E. F. "Inform our troops that all America resounds with praise of the splendid record that the American Expeditionary Forces have made. The reputation of the American soldier for valor and for splendid discipline under the most trying conditions has endeared every member of the Expeditionary Forces not only to his friends and relatives but to all Americans. Their comrades in France have not forgotten that the Americans in Northern Russia are part of the American Expeditionary Forces and we are proud to transmit to you the generous praise of the American people. I feel sure that every soldier in Northern Russia will join his comrades here in the high resolve of returning to America with unblemished reputations. I wish every soldier in Northern Russia to know that I fully appreciate that his hardships have continued long after those endured by our soldiers in France and that every effort is being made to relieve the conditions in the north at the earliest possible moment. Pershing."
Page 137 By Dorothea York 137 bitterly cold. A sergeant's diary under this date reads: "It is very cold in it (the morgue). We have a sheet iron stove in our room and you can get a good fire in it and still be able to blow your breath a foot above it. Passed a very uncomfortable night." The same day a detachment from third and fourth platoons moved six versts out to Chatastrova. On the seventeenth the detachment at Beresnik celebrated by an extra amount of rum ration, a movie show in the evening and a basket ball game. On the twenty-third a mail came in which contained a Saturday Post, the first to reach our troops in Russia. The company was beginning to breathe freely again and rest for the first time since February. The cold was intense. It had run down to eighty below zero on the twentieth but all was quiet on the front temporarily. On March thirty-first the detachment from the third and fourth platoons at Chatastrova moved into the Morgejorskaya area. The same day at Beresnik Bugler Campas was presented with the ribbon of award of British military medal by Brig.Gen. Graham. THE SHOW AT BERESNIK. That night, having had a week to recover from the Bolo's March offensive, our vaudeville talent, in combination with that of the Hospital Corps and Engineers, staged the third and last show in Russia. It was much like the other shows (all black face) and featured our usual "home talent". "Coon Dog" Williams was the star of the evening and "Jimmy" Oxley, Sturr, Danielson, Rapp and the invaluable Troutner all contributed to the gayety of nations. So nearly as we can gather it had no distinctive feature except its origin which was to surpass a show some of the English troops had just put on, but, like the rest, it was of course an unqualified success. Now, after the other two revels of this sort, our weary actors and audience had been dragged out in the small hours of the next morning for a lengthy march. The Company believed that in some mysterious way a show must bring these marches on.. Accordingly when Sgt. Sturr had first begun to
Page 138 138 The Romance of Company "A"' plan this third effort they warned him that he did it absolutely at his own risk. If, according to custom, everyone should be called out this time to march any number of versts to somewhere, Sturr's life would be the least the irate company would require. Sure enough, the morning of April first a detachment of third and fourth platoons left Beresnik at six thirty a. m. for the Morjegorskaya area. Nothing happened to Sgt. Sturr, however, perhaps because he was in charge of the detachment. MORJEGORSKAYA AREA. April second the first and second platoons and Company "A" Headquarters likewise entered the Morjegorskaya area. Here we remained for two months moving from village to village until the end of May, carrying on our operations in nearly a dozen towns. Perhaps the most important of these were Ust Morje, Plesso, Verchi-Konetz, Lutkina, Zarouchi, Gorka, Vakarina and Ouita. The few incidents of interest follow: On April fifth at Plesso Lt. McPhail was presented with the ribbon of award of the British Military Cross by Brig.-Gen. Graham for his work in recovering the wounded under heavy fire at Ust Padenga. On April sixth at Verchi-Konetz a detachment from the hospitals at Archangel and Bereznik returned to their company. These included Sgts. Kernan and Trombley, Pvts. Knight, Lang, Shatkowski and Burbridge. On May tenth notice was received that Capt. Odjard's wound was still/in a very critical state and far from healing. Capt. Taylor was relieved from command by Capt. Alexander McDonald. These are the facts that may be gleaned from the Morning Reports, but, like other official documents, the Morning Report sometimes leaves out entirely the most interesting events. It fails to state for instance that on April twenty-fifth the ice began to break up and go down the river in great jagged pieces and big level sheets. No, it never mentions that, and yet it was the most important thing to Company "A" that had happened since the Vaga froze in the fall and shut them in from the outside world till spring.
Page 139 By Dorothea York 139 Now they would have a chance to start for home, and what that meant to them can only be imagined. Since the action was over (as it was on all our fronts after the first of May, and for "A" Company somewhat sooner) there was altogether too much time to think. Every day in little groups of three or four, men, more homesick than they cared to tell, wandered by an irresistible attraction to the river and watched the swelling stream that must some day carry them toward America and home, surge by with its floating ice in its long journey to the sea. The longing that they felt as spring came on was largely inarticulate but just as real for all that, and it was expressed by that daily pilgrimage to the river to watch the ice go out. The snow receded and the rains came, making the fields bare and brown, and then pricked by the green of shooting rye. The willow catkins showed grey by the streams, and in sheltered spots a very few bold little violets and Russian dandelions appeared. Wild ducks flew over, flocks of strange birds gave unfamiliar calls from fields and woods. Time dragged. The order failed to come. The river was clear and navigable and still they stayed on. Nearly every night a few men would assemble 'for a little "chi" party and over a samovar of tea or cocoa tell stories and discuss the chances of getting home. The fishing was fair and some tried their luck and added fresh fish to the scanty bill of fare. There was a little reading matter which was read thoroughly and reread. They played base ball for hours for now the temperamental Russian sun was making it up to them for its long absences in the dark winter. By the first of May they were playing base ball by daylight up to ten or eleven o'clock, and by the end of May they forgot sometimes to go to bed until reminded by their watches, for it was light enough to see all night long. In this interval of inaction there arose a taste for practical jokes. Anything for something to do. One of the most popular tricks was filling the bunk of an absent friend with barb wire, and woe to the man who was not wary of his sleeping quarters if he had been absent from his platoon for a short
Page 140 :OF
Page 141 By Dorothea York 141 time. The mania for decorating bunks once went so far as surmounting Sgt. Yarger's with a would-be "flivver", including wheels and steering wheel all wired on with an ingenuity and patience worthy of a better cause. About the same time they amused themselves by holding a mock trial. We have mentioned that Annabel was consumed at Christmas time, each man receiving a small section of tough pork. There was a sequel to the affair. It seems that, in common with most of the rest of the expeditionary force, one Phillip Van Setters (better known as "Pan Handle Pete") had written home accounts of army life more comforting than truthful. In fact, with the scanty foundation of his section of Annabel, had romanced about the rations describing Annabel as "pork chops" and speaking of "mashed potatoes, etc." In due time this was published at home, and in more time still the paper traveled slowly back to Russia, arriving early in May. The second platoon was at Lutkina then and it fell upon that account with howls for vengeance. The account was declared an outrage and the unfortunate writer of same came before a kangaroo court charged with an offense similar to perjury. Corp. Knox officiated as judge, the platoon en masse acted as jury, and the culprit was convicted at once without a dissenting voice. The aforementioned culprit was sentenced to be tossed ina blanket which was done forthwith-the whole affair having been accomplished with a dispatch that is seldom seen in courts at home. And still time dragged on, and there were no orders to move. Blue and lonesome-don't speak of it. By the middle of May one diary reads: "Nothing to read so I reread all my letters. I feel like a fish out of water. Gee, but I'm lonesome." And again: "Will we never get out of this damned country?" They had begun to believe that they should be there forever, when the long-hoped-for order came-and came just as other orders and as if it were not a blessed release, longed for for months.
Page 142 142 The Romance of Company "A" Taken from a personal letter to Capt. Odjard under date of 9th of May, 1919, from Maj. Gen. Ironside, the C. in C. of the Allied Forces in Northern Russia: "I want to tell you how proud of you and 'A' Company of the 339th the command is... They made a reputation for themselves second to none and their efficiency was greatly due to their gallant Company Commander." Taken from a newspaper account by Lt. Dudley of the A. R. C.: "I saw one fine act of heroism on the part of Capt. Otto A. Odjard, 'A' Company, 339th Infantry. He was shot through the neck in the fighting about Shenkherst and was brought to the hospital in Berezniki with two platoons of wounded men. Although suffering acute pain, he refused to allow the surgeons to touch him until his men had first received medical attention." HOW TO ACT IN AMERICA Homecoming Hints for the A. N. R. E. F. Remember that if you say "Pazhalovista" to someone on the streets of Detroit, he'll probably knock you cold. Bear in mind that, while the Russian girls like to be stared at, and feel neglected if you don't give 'em the once over, an American girl would probably call a policeman. It will be impossible to "skolkea" cigarettes for eggs. Don't forget that the folks at home speak your language and would get all het up if you wandered nonchalantly along the street making remarks about them. If you want to do that at home, you'll have to talk Russian. Tin hats will not be worn. It will be quite possible to take a Sunday afternoon stroll into the woods without worrying about the Bolo snipers. It will not be necessary to line up with mess kits to enter the dining room of the Statler. It will not be necessary to ask your Sergeant for permission to talk to your boss. If your cook gives you any back talk you can paste him in the jawif you're big enough. Cash, not indents, will be necessary to procure a new shirt. Home folks don't talk in initials and they'd think you were batty if you referred to the bootlegger around the corner in the basement as the 0. C. N. A. C. B., Detroit. -The American Sentinel, May 17, 1919.
Page [unnumbered] 4. Red Cross Hospital Ship "Kalyan" Frozen In Dvina River. 1. Russian Women Engaged in Their Usual Occupation. -:-: I -sl 5. June Ice in the White Sea. 2. American Billets. d~!I V ~: -:~-;::::::::;:: I::-.i-:i —:::::::j: 3. A Snapshot Taken at Midnight May 30th, 1919. 6. Major J. Brooks Leads the Band in Final Selection as Americans Leave Russia. Photographs by Courtesy of Lt. Costello.
Page 143 By Dorothea York 143 THE START. From this point we see no reason why we should not let the men's diaries speak for themselves. The following text is the result of mingling two of them with one letter. Our additional explanations are contained in the parentheses. May 26-All packed and waiting to move out. Pulled out of Vakerina at eleven o'clock and walked eight miles through deep sand and a burning hot sun to the boat at Ust Morje. At three the tug took hold and away we went toward Archangel. Hooray! Struck a sand bar at eleven p. m. Tried all night to pull us off. May 28-Still stuck. Tugs still working. May 30-Finally gave it up and took us off with tugs and into Archangel. Didn't stop at Archangel but on to Economie Point. It sure looked good to see all the ships and especially an American cruiser flying an American flag. Small mail in. May 31-All ready to leave. Transport came down today. We are billeted in tents as the weather is mild. June 1-Everybody standing by ready. June 2-Were reviewed by Maj.-Gen. Ironsides (British), Brig.-Gen. Richardson (American), and Governor-General Miller (Russian). Loaded on His Majesty's Transport "Czar" at two thirty p. m. Have second class passage and what a relief to sleep in a real bed. (Paul and Alex had hoped to go with the troops they'd clung to so long, and slip aboard as stowaways. The men would have helped as far as they dared, but an officer taking the names as each man boarded, discovered the two mascots and sent them back. It was the last Company "A" ever saw of them, although there is a rumor that one of them has since reached England.) June 3-Tugs started us out at seven forty-five a. m. Balance of boys on the dock including the band and some noise. At the entrance to the White Sea the American cruiser sent us on our way by blowing a screeching salute on her siren. She blew and blew. The sailors were cheering in every part of the
Page 144 144 The Romance of Company "A" ship and all the rigging was lined with them. At eight o'clock we sighted ice on our port. June 8-Put in at Lerwick, Shetland Islands. On our way again in the evening. Rumor says we go to Brest, France. Had real chicken for supper. Also an orange. BREST. June 11-Pulled into,Brest about noon. I saw five battleships and on getting closer found that they were all American and our flag was floating free in the breeze. It sure looked good. Everywhere one looked one saw American flags, a strange and welcome contrast to Russia where everything is British. Sailors lined the rails on all our warships to see that "bunch from Russia." Marched four miles to Camp Pontanezen. June 12-We sure are getting a royal razooing on our Russian pay checks. From four to five hundred dollars lost in every company. (At Economie Point the men had been paid by check in English pounds, shillings and pence. Twice during the winter they had been offered two hundred roubles ($20) and some took it, while others preferred to wait until there should be something to spend it for. With this exception the men had not been paid since leaving England-just about eight months-until these checks appeared just before leaving Russia. Upon arriving in Brest, the pound had decreased during their voyage so that the pay checks were worth considerably less in American money, about six cents on the pound. For example: Roughly speaking, if a man were drawing say $50 a month, in eight months the government would owe him four hundred dollars. This figured out in pounds at the exchange value of late May ($4.65 to the pound) would make something over eighty-five pounds. At the exchange value at Brest the middle of June, his check in order to total four hundred dollars should have read eighty-seven pounds and naturally the sum on the checks hadn't changed. His loss would total about 'five dollars. Someway, this seemed the last straw, the final injustice, the crowning insult. They 'refused to cash their checks at a loss and consequently went about Brest look
Page 145 By DorothLea York~ 145 ing hungrily into windows without a cent to pay for the delicacies that might now be had for money, and longing for them with the accumulated desire of nine months from home. Gen. Pershing himself finally saw justice done.) June 18-Had a one day pass to Brest. June 19-Grabbed another pass. Had a real time. June 20-Not allowed to leave Company area. Have everything all packed. THE LAST LAP. June 21-Loaded at five p. m. on U. S. transport "Von Steuben," a captured German raider. June 22-Sailed from Brest at ten a. m. Expect to be in New York in seven days. June 23-Making fine time. Weather ideal. June 29-Ship rolling heavily. Nearly home. June 30-Dropped anchor last night. Pulled into Pier No. 3, Hoboken, at nine a. m. Big tug with Detroit reception committee out to meet us with band. Some noise. Unloaded at once. Red Cross gave us a good feed. On to Camp Merritt, N. J. July 2-All ready to leave for Detroit. (That is all packed up and through the "cootie mill"). Marched to Dumont, N. J. Pulled out at ten p. m. July third. HOME. July 3-Arrived Detroit and dismissed until next morning. Big reception. July 4-Went on boat to Belle Isle and paraded. Some crowd." So writes the terse doughboy, and what more can we say of that fourth of July. Of its waiting and expectancy, its flags and bands, its boats and canoes, its adoring young brothers, its flowers, its girls, its heat if you will and at last
Page 146 146 The Romance of Company "A" thinned ranks of supple, steel muscled, red brown veterans with the quiet set look and quick straight glance that marks a war that is past, that "Look of men that ha' bothered men by more than an easy breath, The eyes of men that ha' read with men in the open books of death." No, we shall not try. Let it pass on with other days unchronicled. We are not likely to forget. Finished, accomplished, completed, over at last, all over. Never again to fell the aching hunger or the shaking misery of long exposure; never again to drag on over endless snowy versts or fight a sleep that would not be denied; never again to walk the nightly post in bitter loneliness or stand each sense aquiver where death lurked within a rod, never again to feel the stinging bite of tearing steel in flesh, the dull ache of wounds, or agony of thawing flesh; never again to bear to waiting sleighs the sagging burdens that moaned through set teeth or worse yet were very still; never again to stand beside a snowy grave under a grey foreign sky and hear taps sounded over what was once a friend; never, never more. The time is over, the chapter finished, and the book is closed. DOSVIDANYA.
Page 147 By Dorothea York 147 CITED FOR GALLANTRY IN ACTION LT. HUGH D. McPHAIL SGT. JAMES W. CHESHER SGT. THOMAS B. KERNAN SGT. FRED A. NEES SGT. THOMAS A. RAPP SGT. EDWARD P. TROMBLEY CORP. HAROLD T. DANIELSON CORP. JOSEPH FRANZAC COOK HOY E. SWADENER IMECH. ALVIN J. HORN PVT. LEON F. GASSMAN PVT. JOSEPH KRAJEWSKI PVT. ERNEST J. KUNA PVT. ALEXANDER LIATSES PVT RICHARD J. RICE PVT. SAMUEL SHIPLER PVT. ABRAHAM SMITH AWARDED RUSSIAN DECORATIONS CAPT. O. A. ODJARD-St. Stanislas of the Second Class with Swords. LT. H. D. McPHAIL-St. Stanislas of ithe Second Class with Swords. AWARDED BRITISH MILITARY CROSS CAPT. O. A. ODJARD LT. H. D. McPHAIL BGLR. G. J. OAMPAS
Page 148 ft I ab 4 4 7 a 4 a N~ -?4 0 1;2 >4 5 00 os: ta e 8 7 A- 4A a ett 0J - a V IC..a 41/ '7 V0
Page 149 By Dorothea York: 149 By Dorothea York 149 COMPANY "A," ROSTER The names of the dead are marked by stars (*). OFFICERS Capt. Otto A. Odjard.......................5343 Spokane, Detroit, Mich. First Lieut. Carl A. McNabb.427 Paris Ave., S. E., Grand Rapids, Mich. First Lieut. Edward J. Saari...............P. O. Box 91, Danville, Va. First Lieut. Arthur F. Collar.........301 Broadway Ave., Fargo, N. D. First Lieut. Harry H. Mead.2008 First Nat'l Bank Bldg., Detroit, Mich. Second Lieut. Charles E. Warner......................................Willys Farm Light Plant Co., Terminal Bldg., Omaha, Nebr. Second Lieut Hugh D. McPhail..... 1513 Prospect St., Lansing, Mich. SERGEANTS First Sgt. Edward J. McCloskey......678 Selden Ave., Detroit, Mich. *Sup. Sgt. John F. Galloway (Mother, Mrs. Anna M. Gilbert)........................................ Box 238 c/o Mrs. De Witt Parker, Algonac, Mich. Mess Sgt. Harold C. Culver.........1268 Eastlawn Ave., Detroit, Mich. Sgt. Thomas B. Kernan.........Co. "D," 17th Inf., Fort Crook, Nebr. Sgt. Omar R. Yarger..........................Cleveland, Oklahoma *Sgt. Yates K. Rodgers (Mother, Mrs. Fay Rodgers)......430 Lucy Ave., Memphis, Tenn. Sgt. Fred A. Nees.................... 15 Quint Ave., Allston 34, Mass. Sgt. John Komisarek................ 146 E. Central Ave., Toledo, Ohio Sgt. Thorley E. Sturr................ 1446 Griswold St., Detroit, Mich. Sgt. Edward Trombley........... 1712 Green Ave., Bay City, Mich. Sgt. Jesse D. Johnson.............1287 Franklin Ave., Columbus, Ohio Sgt. Robert Montgomery................... R. R. 6, Lexington, Mich. Sgt. Allen Neiman.................206 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, Mich. Sgt. Thomas J. Rapp...............5835 Forsythe Ave., Detroit, Mich. Sgt. Reginald Van Dusen...Moved, leavinr no address. Detroit, Mich. Sgt. John S. Crissman............R. F. D. Brightmoor, Redford, Mich. CORPORALS Allikas, Nicholas....................21 Finland St., Archangel, Russia Belcher, Jason............. Moved, leaving no address. Detroit, Mich. Bildat, Lee W....................338 Central Ave., Dayton, Ohio Boren, John L..................... 1233 Forest Ave., Detroit, Mich. Boulware, Thaddeus.................... 19 E. Fifth St., Dayton, Ohio Burbridge, James A................ 236 Grove Ave., Detroit, Mich. Zhesser, James W..........Room 614 Beringer Block, Saginaw, Mich. *Cook, Clarence R. (Mother, Mrs. John Cook).......................................................... Moved, leaving no address. Steelton, Ont. Coulson, Percy J...................... 1405 Baker St., Detroit, Mich. Danielson, Harold....................348 Englewood, Detroit, Mich.
Page 150 150 The Romance of Company "A" *De Amicis, Giuseppe (Friend, Miss Maggie Adrine)...5381 Scotten Ave., Detroit, Mich. Dewyer, Edward....................4145 Second Ave., Detroit, Mich. Franzac, Joseph.....................69 Jackson St., Edwardsville, Pa. Garbinski, Joseph.........................4245 25th St., Detroit, Mich. Gibbs, Ivan M.................................... Saugatuck, Mich. *Gottschalk, Milton (Father, Charles Gottschalk)..656 Melbourne Ave., Detroit, Mich. Hunter, John L..........................1333 Brainard, Detroit, Mich. Kelly, Edward...................2014 Clinton Ave., Fort Worth, Tex. *Kenny, Bernard F. (Mother, Mrs. Patrick Kenny)...................Hemlock, Mich. Knight, Leonard....................1597 Hubbard St., Detroit, Mich. *Lehmann, William (Mother, Mrs. Katherine Lehmann).... 418 Park St., Danville, Ill. McHugh, Patrick J.........c/o Volds Drug Store, Grand Forks, N. D. Mandalski, Lawrence.Moved, leaving no address. Harbor Beach, Mich. Mattreski, Stephen A...................4632 St. Aubin, Detroit, Mich. Moch, Louis M.......................2143 Warren E., Detroit, Mich. *Moore, Albert..................Address of Next of Kin Unknown. Mosher, Elton J........2115 Gardner Ave. S. W., Grand Rapids, Mich. Muncy, Brammer B............................Box 577, Jenkins, Ky. Oxley, James...............Moved, leaving no address. St. Clair, Pa. Peters, Leo J....................................R. R. 2, Tyre, Mich. *Peyton, Edward (Father, William L. Peyton)......516 S. Fifth St., Richmond, Ky. *Rauschenberger, Albert (Wife, Mrs. Pearl Rauschenberger)..........................................................415 Scribner, Grand Rapids, Mich. *Richey, August (Father, Frank Richey).........400 Orchard St., Dowagiac, Mich. Russell, Elmer C.............................. R. R. 1, Palms, Mich. Sander, Carl V.......................................... Felton, M inn. Saunders, Howard S...............3825 Sturgis St., Port Huron, Mich. Shanahan, Edward...................................................... Parisian Co., Shoe Dept., Woodward Ave., Detroit, Mich. Shipler, Samuel.............................. Raymond, Kans. Shook, Glen.........................................Carsonville, M ich. Simpson, Robert.............................. R. R. 1, Mason, Mich. Starr, Russell........................... R. R. 3, Coleman, Mich. *Stier, Victor (Sister, Miss Margaret Stier) 3646 Warsaw Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio Strunk, Lloyd..............c/o Mrs. Rachel Vermillion, Jellico, Tenn. Sydney, Ernest...................... 449 4th Ave., Detroit, Mich. Todd, Reuben.................. i...................La Grange, Ind. Troutner, Max....................67 Clark St., Battle Creek, Mich. Umphrey, Guy G.................... 1703 Holden Ave., Detroit, Mich. Van Steenberg, John H............................... Lansing, Ill. *Williams, Edson (Mother, Mrs. Ellen Williams)............................................................501 S. E. Walnut St., Minneapolis, Minn. COOKS Christian, Mikel..........................1920 1st St., Detroit, Mich. Coller, Earl W........................417 Carey St., Lansing, Mich.
Page 151 By Dorothea York 151 Marlin, Samuel H...................... 5 W 9th St., Cincinnati, Ohio MacKinnon, Howard..............610 Ontario St., Port Huron, Mich. Playford, Lewis......................R. R. No. 4, Cassopolis, Mich. Stone, Archie..............Moved, leaving no address, Portland, Ore. Swadener, Hoy........................149 Davenport, Detroit, Mich. MECHANICS Horn, Alwin J.......Bridge & Bldg. Dept., City Hall, Milwaukee, Wis. McDougall, James...................3785 Farnsworth, Detroit, Mich. Peckenpaugh, Harold............ 15511 Wabash Ave., Detroit, Mich. BUGLERS Culver, Earl P.....................464 E. 37th St., Portland, Ore. Campas, George J.......................444 Main St., Medina, N. Y. PRIVATES Albert, Maurice........................283 Warren E., Detroit, Mich. Aleckson, Henry.............................R. R. No. 1, Blair, Wis. Anderson, Albert....................5215 Bewick Ave., Detroit, Mich. Andreas, Orin.................................. alkerville, M ich. Andrews, Ralph R...................4460 Harrison St., Bellaire, Ohio Antonowich, Louis...........Moved, leaving no address, Chicago, Ill. Avery, William...................................Midland, Mich. Avison, Harris..........................492 Glendale, Detroit, Mich. Ball, Harry D.................................R. R. No. 2, Ray, Ind. Bartolotta, Joseph..............309 Graham St., Grand Rapids, Mich. Bazlewicz, Kasimierz........Moved, leaving no address, Racine, Wis. Bentz, Oscar.................R. R. No. 2, Box 147, Ludington, Mich. Bianchi, Orlando........124 National Ave. S. W., Grand Rapids, Mich. Blacho, Stanley............................ Box 1153, Maynard, Mass. Bliesener, Edward.....................R. R. No. 2, Pinconning, Mich. *Breen, Thomas Next of kin possibly at............2111 Brooklyn, Detroit, Mich. Briggs, Lyle.............................R. R. No. 3, Manton, Mich. Byrne, John W.,.......................510 13th St., Bay City, Mich. Capwell, Stanley.......................444 Main St., Medina, N. Y. *Carter, William J. (Sister, Miss Florence Carter)..2578 Bewick Ave. (?), Detroit, Mich. Chiliwinski, Peter......................599 Boone St., Kenosha, Wis. *Cole, Elmer (Brother, Alva Cole).....................Hammersley Fork, Pa. Croop, Frank............................ R. R. No. 2, Byron, Mich. *Cwenk, Joseph (Friend, Lewis Decer)............................ Milan, Mich. Cyr, Henry...................1116Y2 N. Jefferson St., Bay City, Mich. Davis, Richard........................2131 Linden St., Detroit, Mich. De Graw, Sidney............................. Cedar Springs, Mich. Di Guiseppe, Vincent................1744 Hazelwood, Detroit, Mich. Ealmini, John......................11 E. Brown St., Iron Mt., Mich. Fassler; William.......................214 E. 10th St., Newport, Ky. Gadomski, Alexander.......Moved, leaving no address, Detroit, Mich. Garland, William...............Moved, leaving no address, Joliet, Ill. Gassman, Leon..........................R. R. No. 4, Ashville, N. Y.
Page 152 152 The Romance of Company "A" Goodz, Andrew..........................R. R. No. 1, Munger, Mich. Graham, Patrick............................. Cass City, Mich. Gray, Alfred.......c/o J. L. Boren, 1233 Forest Ave., Detroit, Mich. Hahn, John J.........................Box 571, Shelby, Mich. Hammerle, Henry......................... R. R. No. 2, Hart, Mich. *Hannon, John (Sister, Mrs. A. Hendrickson)............................................Moved, leaving no address, Menominee, Mich. Harris, Le Verne.............622 Scribner Ave., Grand Rapids, Mich. Hasty, Ralph................................R. R. No. 3, Hart, Mich. Hiddema, Rance........................R. R. No. 2, Shelby, Mich. Hilaride, Theodore.......................604 Beniteau, Detroit, Mich. Houghton, Clifford.............................Address Not Known *Hutchinson, Alfred (Father, Alfred Hutchinson).................... Plainwell, Mich. Ingersoll, Arthur...................................Fife Lake, Mich. Jaskowski, John............................... Address Not Known *Jenks, Stillman (Father, Stillman Jenks)...............R. R. No. 3, Shelby, Mich. Karstens, John.......................2853 Archer Ave., Chicago, Ill. Kedzierski, Frank.................775 Burnham St., Milwaukee, Wis. Kempinski, Vincent...................605 31st Ave., Milwaukee, Wis. Kerbyson, Archibald..................... R. R. No. 2, Decker, Mich. Keshick, Peter....................................... Harris, Mich. Kline, Louis F............................... R. No. 6, Flint, Mich. Knox, Evan H.....................310 Wyandotte, Columbus, Ohio *Kowalski, Stanley...............Address of Next of Kin Not Known Krajewski, Joseph...............339 Gratton St., Grand Rapids, Mich. Kuna, Ernest.......................2629 Theodore St., Detroit, Mich. Kurowski, John......................... 1308 Dubois, Detroit, Mich. *Kurowski, Max (Mother, Mrs. Vernon Kurowski)................................................. 562 Valley Ave., Grand Rapids, Mich. Kurtz, Adam H..........Moved, leaving no address, Milwaukee, Mich. *Kussrath, Charles (Father, Charles Kussrath)............................................................. 1244 W. 31st Place, Chicago, Ill. Lamphear, Albert........................3357 S. Wood, Chicago, Ill. Lang, Charles........................3715 Emerald Ave., Chicago, Ill. Laws, Forrest F......................................... Coffeen, Ill. Lebiediewicz, Alexander..............69 Dower St., Bridgeport, Conn. *Lencioni, Sebastino..............Address of Next of Kin Not Known Lewis, Ben B.......................8930 Wilson Ave., Detroit, Mich. Liatses, Alexander........Moved, leaving no address, Milwaukee, Wis. Lightner, Salathiel................632 Gratiot, Detroit, Mich. Lindberg, Henry......................6519 S. Troy St., Chicago, Ill. Lindeman, Arnold..........Moved, leaving no address, Detroit, Mich. Lotzer, Charles......................516 Evan St., Ironwood, Mich. McAlpine, Arthur.........................2012 5th St., Detroit, Mich. McShane, John.............................201 Francis St., Joliet, Ill. *McTavish, Stewart (Mother, Mrs. Peter McTavish)..... Stratford, Ont. Malinowski, Boleslaw.....................945 Garfield, Detroit, Mich. *Martin, William J. (Friend, Earl Drinkel)...Moved, leaving no address, Detroit, Mich. Meabon, Otto C................................. Bangor, Mich.
Page 153 By Dorothea York: 153 Moore, Daniel................................ Eversole, Ky. Moore, John.................. 1519 W. Market St., Louisville, Ky. Morgan, Frank................331 Sherwood Ave. Detroit, Mich. Morgan, Joseph..............................Woodvine, Ky. Moses, George.................... 1503 Lamed E., Detroit, Mich. Murphy, Edward............Moved, leaving no address, Toledo, Ohio Nowitski, Leo J...............709 4th St., Grand Rapids, Mich. Olney, Daniel......Grand Rapids Gas Light Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. O'Neal, Fred.........Port Washington Rd., Box 78, Milwaukee, Wis. Ostrow, Max.....................3601 Mack Ave., Detroit, Mich. Otto, Edwin....................1713 Market St. W., Louisville, Ky. Overholt, Nelson............2122 Division Ave., Grand Rapids, Mich. Paine, Lewis A............... 1452 Clairmount Ave., Detroit, Mich. *Patrick, Ralph............. Address of Next of Kin Not Known Pawolski, Vincent...................................................c/o Columbia Hotel, 341 W. Bridge St., Grand Rapids, Mich. Periso, William............................. Argyle, Mich. Petry, Leander................................ P. 0. 153, Corbin, Ky. Phillips, John...........c/o F. Cramer, R. R. No. 7, Muskegon, Mich. Philpot, Roy........................... R. R. 1, Snover, Mich. Plye, Donald...................................Wabash, Ind. Poddig, William.............622 N. Valley St., Grand Rapids, Mich. *Poth, Russell (Wife, Mrs. Vera Poth).....................Brown City, Mich. Powell, Robert,.....................519 Prange St., Richmond, Ind. Pray, Don N.....................1906 Stone St., Port Huron, Mich. Procter, Claude H.................735 N. Ottawa, Grand Rapids, Mich. Pudney, Charles...............................Melvin, Mich. Putnam, Frank L............................Sandusky, Mich. Race, Charles........................... R. R. No. 2, Milford, Mich. Ramsey, Albert................................Wildie, Ky. Randall, Roy.................... 434 Cadillac Ave., Detroit, Mich. Redd, James T.................R. No. 1, Box 74, Crabb Orchard, Ky. Reed, Chester.................9 Lexington Ave., Grand Rapids, Mich. Regentin, Walter.........................R. R. 1, Minden City, Mich. Reinelt, Fred............. Moved, leaving no address, Detroit, Mich. *Retherford, Lindsay (Mother, Mrs. Sanford Retherford)...........Houstonville, Ky. Rice, Rex............................... Leavenworth, Kan. Rice, Richard...................525 Baraga Ave., Marquette, Mich. Rice, Theodore................................Typo, Ky. Risley, Christopher................209 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, Ill. Robb, Everett................... R. R. No. 1, Carsonville, Mich. Robertson, Charles B.......245 E. Van Buren St., Battle Creek, Mich. Rockwell, Ernest..................... R. R. No. 5, Niles, Mich. *Rose, Benjamin (Father, Miner Rose).......................... Packard, Ky. Rose, Elmer...............................Peck, Mich. Rowland, Edgar...................946 Clinton St., Cincinnati, Ohio Rusetzke, Edward................ General Delivery, Forestville, Mich. *Russell, Archie (Father, George Russell)...................................................... Moved, leaving no address, Hesperia, Mich. Ryan, James......................964 Fourth St., Detroit, Mich. *Sajnaj, Leo (Mother, Selma Sajnaj)............2816 W. 23rd St., Chicago, Ill.
Page 154 154 The Romance of Company "A" Salter, Samuel L....................Estelle Ave., Richmond, Ky. Sazma, Joseph................ Moved, leaving no address, Chicago, Ill. Schenk, William................. R. No. 2, Edwardsburg, Mich. Scheppers, Peter...................R. R. No. 4, Marion, Mich. Scholar, John W.......................2643 15th St., Detroit, Mich. Schuck, Alfred......................4918 W. 23rd St., Cicero, Ill. Schultz, Alfred...............Moved, leaving no adrdess, Chicago, Ill. Schultz, Edward........Moved, leaving an address, Cheboygan, Mich. Schab, James.....................2640 Spaulding Ave., Chicago, Ill. *Scruggs, Frank (Sister, Hella Gaugling)......................... etelle, Ala. Searls, Warren M.................R. R. No. 3, Marcellus, Mich. Seaver, William............Moved, leaving no address, Douglas, Kans. Shannon, Patrick.............Moved, leaving no address, Chicago, Ill. Shatkowski, Frank................ 3218 E. 90th St., South Chicago, Ill. Shaw, Jesse................... 12 Strong Ave., Muskegon, Mich. Shetterly, Welcome........................R. R. 1, Cassopolis, Mich. *Shingledecker, Dwight (Father Henry Shingledecker).................. Dowagiac, Mich. Shrimplin, Chester......................150 Geiger Ave., Alliance, 0. Simek, Joseph..........................2721 S. Turner St., Chicago, Ill. Singleton, Charles................................Broadhead, Ky. Skellenger, Kenneth...............12131 Cherry Lawn, Detroit, Mich. Slanchowski, Leo........................... Address not known Smith, Abraham.......................... Pollyton, Ky. Smith, Adolph............................927 Holton Ave., Detroit, Mich. Smith, Elner...............................Carsonville, Mich. *Smith, George J.................Address of Next of Kin Not Known Soflin, Frank....................... R. R. No. 5, Croswell, Mich. Soflin, George........................... R. R. No. 5, Croswell, Mich. Sommers, Robert....................Hotel Prevost, Chicago, Ills. Spears, Adolph..........Moved, leaving no address, Copemish, Mich. Steinhaus, William................... R. R. No. 4, Le Roy, Mich. Stephens, Floyd...................700 Oxford Rd., Ann Arbor, Mich. Stepka, Joseph........................R. R. No. 2, Tyre, Mich. Stilp, Harry J.....................322 State St., Salem, Ore. *Stocken, Orville (Wife, Mrs. Caroline)..........245 Grove St., Battle Creek, Mich. Stocken Hall Stowe, Howard L......................R. No. 1, Irving, Kans. Stringer, Earl J..................... 3462 4th, Detroit, Mich. Sullivan, Thomas....................82 Sidney, Rochester, N. Y. Sumner, George............................. South Corbin, Ky. *Surran, Harry B. (Sister, Mrs. Helen Barkley)........................ Culver, Ind. *Sweet, Earl D. (Wife, Mrs. Amy Sweet).....................Carsonville, Mich. Sweet, Ira H......................Box 128, Muskegon Heights, Mich. Tank, Arthur...................................Snover, Mich. Taulbee, Homer..........................Letcher Co., Blackey, Ky. Teeple, Burley...............3031 Gratiot Ave., Port Huron, Mich. Ten Brink, Garrit....................R. R. No. 1, New Era, Mich. Thomas, Cleo W..........Moved, leaving no address, Kenosha, Wisc. *Thompson, Henry (Sister, Mrs. Florence Brooks)......................... Moved, leaving no address, Elkhart, Ind.
Page 155 By Dorothea York 155 Todd, H. M.......c/o Mrs. Della Locher, R. No. 2, Cassopolis, Mich. Todd, Leo. S..............c/o Albert Todd, R. No. 5, Marlette, Mich. *Trammell, Dausie (Father, Hiram Trammell)..............................Clio, Ky. Tyree, Homer..................c/o.W. D. Tyree, R. No. 1, Arley, Ala. Van Camp, Vernon......................R. R. No. 2, Croswell, Mich. Van der Laan, Chester.Moved, leaving no address, Grand Rapids, Mich. Van Horn, Henry...................... 4179 Newport, Detroit, Mich. Van Nocker, Nelson.......57 So. McCamelay St., Battle Creek, Mich. Van Setters, Phillip........ 1048 Crosby St., Grand Rapids, Mich. Van Sluyters, Herman...........930 Crosby St., Grand Rapids, Mich. Walter, George.........................R. R. No. 5, Marcellus, Mich. Watts, Alva E.................................. Casey, Ill. *Weaver, Lewis (Father, Lewis Weaver).......................... Marlette, Mich. Welch, Russell...........................R. R. No. 2, Melvin, Mich. *Welstead, Walter (Sister, Mrs. Helen Ballou)..........740 E. 91st St., Chicago, Ill. West, Stewart...E. Walnut St., R. No. 2, Richmond, Madison Co., Ky. Western, Harold B..............R. R. No. 3, Box 58, Cass City, Mich. Westphal, Carl F.....................R. R. No. 3, Carsonville, Mich. Wierenga, Peter.................R. F. D. No. 9, Grand Rapids, Mich. Williams, Naler.....................503 College St., Georgetown, Ky. Winters, Homer...................................... Marlette, Mich. W oods, Ernest........................................Livingston, Ky. Yates, Joseph................................ Phillipsburg, Ky. York, Frank............................. Pleasant View, Ky. Young, Richard....................... R..No. 2, Carsonville, Mich. Zahn, John.........................707 W. Lincoln St., Belleville, Ill. Zwingeberg, Raymond..........53 Monroe Ave., Grand Rapids, Mich. MEN WHO JOINED COMPANY "A" AT ECONOMIE POINT IN SPRING 1919. Privates. Anderson, Charles 0..........203 West B St., Iron Mountain, Mich. Bahnmiller, Oscar A......................R. R. No. 2, Chelsea, Mich. Berberian, James..................1214 Majestic Bldg., Detroit, Mich. Bleam, Arthur.....................406 Lagrave, Grand Rapids, Mich. Butler, Alfred.........................1406 15th St., Bay City, Mich. Daley, James...................................Argyle P. O., Mich. Dolcejowski, William................51 Incline St., Wyandotte, Mich. Drake, La Verne F......................R. R. No. 2, Dexter, Mich. Feldt, Karl O.......................121 S. Clay St., Greenville, Mich. Ferro, Frank...................... 1232 S. 10th St., Philadelphia, Pa. Freeman, Milo...................General Delivery, Shepherd, Mich. Frohn, Seymour....................405 Farwell Bldg., Detroit, Mich. Funk. Lewis.........................2219 McDougall, Detroit, Mich. Goorhouse, Henry J........................Box 64, Grandville, Mich. Gootas, Peter A.................41 W. Main St., Battle Creek, Mich. Gunderson, George B................ R. R. No. 1, Whitehall, Mich. Hall, John E...........................Mill St., Marion, New York Hauge. Edgar........c/o Oluf Hauge, R. No. 4, Cedar Springs, Mich. Kesterke, Henry R...................R. R. No. 1, Eau Claire, Mich. Knoll, Walter.........................1506 7th St., Milwaukee, Wisc.
Page 156 156 The Romance of Company "A" Koss, Harvey E....................................... Jefferson, W isc. Kudych, Stanley..................40 Hovey St., Grand Rapids, Mich. Landon, Floyd W...........64 N. Michigan Ave., Battle Creek, Mich. Ligman, August J................ R. R. No. 3, Reedsburg, Wisc. Lindstrom, John A.............. 148 Ford Ave., Highland Park, Mich. McLennan, Richard D....128 Mason Blvd., Muskegon Heights, Mich. Medow, Nathan...................416 S. Chapin St., South Bend, Ind. Mueller, Martin..........c/o E. J. Mueller, R. No. 4, La Valle, Wisc. Metcalf, Alvan L........................R. R. No. 4, Remus, Mich. Nestell, Fred................... 283 W. Main St., Battle Creek, Mich.